Mountain to sea

The latest broods of Grey-faced Petrels Pterodroma macroptera have finally left their nests on Mount Karioi and flown to sea, much to the delight of the dedicated band of conservationists who have spent many months keeping their burrows safe from predators.

A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand’s flagship project, Karioi Maunga ki te Moana, is an integrated pest control programme to re-establish Karioi as a seabird mountain.

When the chicks are just days old, the parents leave in search of sustenance. They can be away for up to a fortnight, during which time their young are vulnerable to predators such as stoats, rats and possums. Project manager, Kristel Van Houte, and her team of staff and volunteers take turns to carry out-foot patrols and monitoring, using infrared cameras to safeguard the burrows 24-7.

Kristel says, ‘It’s unique to have a remnant seabird population on the mainland in New Zealand, as mostly they live on coastal islands. Furthermore, their numbers across New Zealand and globally are in decline.

‘This breeding season produced about 15 chicks, but a stoat killed half of them. We were utterly devastated, but remained determined to protect the remaining young.

‘Once the last of the chicks have fledged, the first six months of 2019 will be spent on more intensive predator control across the 2000 hectares of the project site. We hope that when the current crop of chicks is ready to return to the Whāingaroa coastline in three to seven years, it will be an even safer environment to rear their own young.’

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