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Pest-free homecoming for tiny robins

Published: 14 April 2016

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North Island robins reintroduced into Shakespear Open Sanctuary

The birdsong of the native North Island robins, or toutouwai, will once again fill Shakespear Open Sanctuary following the release of the first pairs last week (Friday 8 April) into their new pest-free home.

Auckland Council’s Regional Park Rangers and Biodiversity team has been working with volunteers from Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc. (SOSSI) to make this possible by working to eradicate predators and plant habitat specifically for the robins.

“Shakespear Open Sanctuary has been pest-free for almost five years now and the recovery of resident wildlife has been wonderful to see,” says Auckland Council’s Open Sanctuary Senior Ranger, Matt Maitland. "Some species have returned under their own steam; we are proud to have now reintroduced both whitehead and robin."

The birds have been part of an innovative translocation project, led by Dr Kevin Parker from Parker Conservation and Massey University, and funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Robins have been moved from Mangatutu (King Country) to Shakespear Open Sanctuary where they can repopulate the area and flourish in a safe and pest-free environment.

A joint effort 

“We'll be monitoring the robins closely to see how they settle. It is wonderful to celebrate the return of toutouwai with sanctuary partners and supporters. Soon park visitors will hear their song as they explore the park,” Dr Parker says.

Chair of Auckland Council’s Parks Recreation and Sport Committee, Councillor Christine Fletcher, has praised those involved in this crucial conservation work.

“This is important work that takes a huge amount of time and effort. I’d like to thank all the volunteers at Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society (SOSSI) and recognise our landowner partners, the NZ Defence Force and WaterCare, as well as YMCA Shakespear Lodge for their help with logistics, and finally our biodiversity team and brilliant park rangers.”

SOSSI Chairman Peter Jackson says, “Our volunteers have worked for more than a decade to prepare habitats for missing wildlife and reintroduce them back into the sanctuary.”

Introduced whitehead flourishing 

“Translocation is a high risk, but high return conservation strategy that is so far working really well for Shakespear Open Sanctuary. Our first reintroduced species, whitehead or popokatea has flourished and we’ve now even sighted new offspring,” Mr Jackson says.

Auckland Council’s Biodiversity Manager Rachel Kelleher says, ““We all have the opportunity to protect and restore native species. These are so important to the fabric of biodiversity in Auckland.”

The robins were blessed by Ngati Manuhiri before being released on 8 April. A further 20 robins are due to be released in early May.

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