Putauhinu is a remarkable sanctuary island, and its story is one of loss, renewal and conservation in action.
Rat-free for two decades, Putauhinu is now home to rare land birds, including tieke or South island saddlebacks, toutouwai or robins, and tutukiwi or Snares Island snipe – and all three species are on the move, to other, newly rat-free, Tītī Islands.
Putauhinu is one of 36 Tītī Islands, scattered around the coast of Rakiura - Stewart island. Home to millions of sooty shearwaters,the Tītī islands are used by Rakiura Maori for the cultural harvest of tītī, or muttonbirds.
Tane Davis is a muttonbirder whose family has 'birded' in the Tītī Islands for centuries.
Tane is also chair of the Rakiura Tītī Islands Administering Body, the body set up to manage 18 former Crown Tītī Islands which were returned to Ngāi Tahu in 1997, as part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
The remaining 18 Tītī Islands are privately owned, and are known collectively as the Beneficial Tītī Islands.
The Rakiura Tītī Islands are to be managed in a way that ensures the sustainable harvest of tītī, and they are also to be treated as nature reserves. Each year, the committee develops conservation work plans, and this year they developed an ambitious plan to move three rare bird species from Putauhinu to two other islands.
Kiore, or Pacific rats, were eradicated from Putauhinu in 1997, and since then a number of rare birds have been successfully translocated there. Stewart Island snipe became extinct after rats invaded nearby Taukihepa or Big South Cape Island in the early 1960s, and in their place snipe have been relocated from subantarctic Snares Island.
Thirty-three snipe were caught on Putauhinu and released on nearby Mokinui Island.
Tieke or South Island saddlebacks were rescued from Taukihepa during the rat invasion in the 60s, and now thrive on a number of islands.
Insect-eating toutouwai or robins do well on Putauhinu, as the tītī fertilise the island with marine nutrients when they are breeding on the island, and as a result invertebrates thrive there.
Forty-nine toutouwai and 36 tieke were caught on Putauhinu and released on Rukawahakura or Joss's Island, on the east coast of Stewart Island. The birds were flown there by helicopter, accompanied by Tane Davis, and John and Lee Pennicott from Putauhinu.
Charles Davis pays tribute to his daughter Lania and her husband Lawrence, who were responsible for getting rid of rats on the island. The family, including mokopuna Winiata and Ngakau were there to meet and release the birds, and Charles says it was an emotional day for him , as he hadn't seen tieke for more than 40 years.