07 May 2012
The chances of survival for New Zealand’s remaining 260 takah? have been boosted after Department of Conservation workers from the Mitre 10 Takah? Rescue Programme took swift action to reduce the effects of a forecast plague of stoats.
A large increase in the stoat population in the Murchison Mountains decimated the population of the critically endangered takah? from 300 to just 230 in the 2007/2008 season. Once thought to be extinct, the takah? population has now recovered to 260 birds but just 77 breeding pairs; only 45 of these breeding pairs are safe from predation as they live at predator free sites.
Mitre 10 Takah? Rescue Programme Manager, Phil Tisch, said the Department of Conservation monitoring identified that a stoat plague, similar to the 2007/2008 season, was likely to occur after an increase in the mice and rat population following a year of increased seed production by beech trees, and immediately set about planning how to best protect the rare birds.
“An earlier trap check indicated that the population of stoats in the Murchison Mountains was going to expand to levels at least equivalent to the 2007/08 season where we lost many takah?. We couldn’t afford to have that happen again so we decided an extra check of the stoat traps was necessary to minimise the threat to the birds.
“With the trapping programme covering the entire 50,000 hectare conservation area it takes one month to complete one check and to carry out the extra check we needed additional support,” Phil said.
“Fortunately Mitre 10 came to our urgent assistance with a donation of $20,000 and we were able to put plans in place to significantly reduce the risk of predation on takah? during this plague event.”
Mitre 10 General Manager Marketing, Dave Elliott, said when Mitre 10 found out about the potential stoat plague there was no question that they would lend a hand.
“The takah? are at real risk; there are not many birds left. Another severe stoat attack could see them become extinct in their last remaining natural location, and another iconic New Zealand bird would be lost to the wild.
“Their re-discovery in 1948 was pretty amazing and Mitre 10 wants to ensure that they are protected and remain an iconic part of New Zealand’s identity.”
The additional stoat check began early April and was completed at the end of the month. The Department of Conservation Mitre 10 Rescue Programme team recorded no takah? deaths as a result of stoat predation.