Thursday, March 08, 2007

ENV: Kakariki

Rare birds released on island
By TIANA MIOCEVICH - The Marlborough Express Thursday, 8 March 2007

Eleven orange-fronted parakeets were released on Maud Island in Pelorus Sound yesterday, as part of an ongoing breeding project to protect the endangered species.

The orange-fronted parakeet (kakariki) is now the rarest parakeet in New Zealand, with about 200 remaining in the wild. An ongoing captive breeding programme at Peacock Springs Conservation Park in Christchurch has already produced a successful offshore population of the parakeets at Chalky Island, Fiordland. The Department of Conservation hopes to duplicate that feat at Maud Island.

"The island is ideal because it's predator-free," said Mike Aviss, biodiversity manager for the department. Mr Aviss said there were no stoats or rats on the island to kill the low-nesting parakeets, but he said the birds would always be endangered on the mainland until they found an effective way to eliminate stoats.

The eight female and three male parakeets were fitted with transmitting devices on Tuesday to keep track of their progress, and Mr Aviss said that the fledgling birds could start breeding in a matter of months.

"These parakeets are capable of breeding all year round.

"As they mature, they get to be better breeders," he said.

Raymond Smith, a representative from Ngati Kuia, atten-ded the release and said the presence of local iwi was important, to bless the native birds and support the efforts of DOC.

"You can read about it in a DOC report but it's great to be able to see it for yourself," he said.

The birds were released using the hard-release method of letting them fly free from cages immediately, after having endured a flight from Christ-church to Blenheim, and then a helicopter ride to Maud Island.

Anne Richardson bred the parakeets at Peacock Springs, and said there was no reason the birds should fly off Maud Island.

"They've got lots of yummy food to eat," she said. Ms Richardson said her "babies" were her passion, and she did not want to see the parakeets die out.

She said the latest release of the orange-fronted parakeets was the first of many destined for Maud Island, if the breeding programme proved successful there.

"I've done my bit," she says. "The rest is up to them."

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