27 May 2010

Sweetwater Covenant, Chatham Island

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 27 May 2010

Predator proof fence surrounding bush in the Sweetwater Covenant, and regenerating bush inside the fence

The predator proof fence around the bush edge marks the Sweetwater Covenant on the Tuanui farm, and inside the fence the forest is regenerating quickly (images: A. Ballance)

Liz and Bruce Tuanui are Chatham Island farmers, conservationists and board members of the Chatham Island Taiko Trust. They have protected several important areas of forest on their farm with conservation covenants, and run a predator trapping programme across their entire farm - from coast to forest interior. The Awatotora Covenant, near the farmhouse, is now home to a growing population of parea, or Chatham pigeons, as well as Chatham Island tui, newly translocated from Rangatira Island (a 2-part story on the tui translocation featured in Our Changing World on 22 April and 29 April)

The Sweetwater Covenant lies at the end of the farm next to the Tuku Nature Reserve, which Bruce's parents gifted to the Crown. In 2006, with support from the Taiko Trust, a predator-proof fence was erected around the remnant forest and predators within the fenced were trapped and poisoned. The Tuku is the last known breeding site for taiko, one of New Zealand's rarest and most elusive seabirds. In an effort to restore populations of both taiko and Chatham petrels within the safe confines of the fence, nesting burrows have been built, and chicks are placed in the burrows and fed for the last few weeks before they fledge, in an effort to re-programme them to return to the reserve rather than the burrows where they hatched. Loud speaker systems play the calls of both taiko and Chatham petrels at night in an effort to attract other birds to the area.

The Chatham Islands boast proportionally more private conservation covenants than anywhere else in New Zealand.

Sticks across a burrow entrance are a simple method of determining if a bird has visited, and loud speaker in tree plays recorded calls to attract passing birds

The stick 'fence' across the burrow entrance is a simple way of knowing whether or not a bird has visited the burrow, as it gets knocked over when the bird enters. The speakers play Chatham petrel and taiko calls all night to attract passing birds (images: A. Ballance)

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