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Restoring taonga wildlife

Project Island Song is bringing taonga wildlife back to the islands of Ipipiri.

Over 75% of New Zealand’s species are endemic, which means they are found nowhere else on the planet. We have a huge responsibility to protect these unique and wonderful creatures and support their recovery from the damage caused by introduced pests and through habitat loss.

We do this by reintroducing species to the islands, protecting those that were already there, and supporting other species to re-establish themselves.

Reintroducing missing species

The pest-free status of the islands, and regenerating forest, has made it possible for species to be reintroduced to the islands from populations elsewhere.

Between 2012 and 2022 we have reintroduced eight species of birds, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants, and we have a plan for reintroducing another 13 vulnerable species.

Our translocation plan includes both species which would once have been typical of the area, and vulnerable species that are at risk of disappearing completely from mainland New Zealand or have already done so. Pest-free islands act a vital life raft for these most threatened species to maintain viable populations into the future.

Pāteke/Brown Teal

Year reintroduced: 2012
Total reintroduced: 12
Conservation status: Endangered

Pāteke was Project Island Song’s first species reintroduction in September 2012.

As the rarest waterfowl species in New Zealand, with only 2000 to 2500 Pāteke are left in the wild, it is hoped the pest-free islands will act as a conservation safe haven for the duck. Six males and six females were set free into the Entico Bay wetland, Urupukapuka Island, the largest pest-free island in Ipipiri.

Protecting existing species on the islands

The islands of Ipipiri are also home to populations of rare and threatened species that were present before Project Island Song’s work began, including tūturiwhatu (New Zealand dotterel), North Island brown kiwi, mioweka (banded rail), and kororā (little blue penguin). All of these species are now supported to thrive thanks to the pest-free status of the islands, and the regenerating habitat.

Wildlife finding its own way back

In an ideal world wildlife returns to the islands naturally. However, lots of New Zealand’s native species are reluctant to cross any significant body of water, including many of our birds, or are no longer present on the adjacent mainland, hence the need to reintroduce them.

There are several species that do have the potential to reintroduce themselves to the islands now that they represent a safe, pest-free habitat and breeding ground, and an increasingly valuable source of food.

These include the miromiro (North Island tomtit), oi (grey-faced petrel), mioweka (banded rail) and native plant species transported by birds like the kūkupa (wood pigeon).

The “halo effect”

As existing and returning bird species become more established across the islands and populations increase, we can expect to witness an increasing “halo effect” with some species, where the safety of a pest-free environment supports birds to become more common across the wider region.

Kākāriki (red-crowned parakeet) and mioweka (banded rail) are highly mobile birds with a wide range and have already been spotted in gardens on the Russell Peninsula, since their reintroduction to Ipipiri.

With increased populations on the islands and increasing pest management on the mainland, it’s hoped that the islands will become a source population for other projects in the region.