THEY’RE OFF: Taronga Zoo’s Michael Shiels points out one of the just-released hihi.
One of New Zealand’s rarest birds has taken to its new home at Bushy Park with a song.
Forty-four of the hihi or stitchbird – 22 male and 22 female – were released into the park yesterday morning to make it one of only three mainland hihi sanctuaries nationwide.
The birds were captured on Tiritiri Matangi island near Auckland last Saturday by a team of 13, including Department of Conservation and Massey University researchers and staff from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
It’s believed there are less than 3500 left in New Zealand.
Around 100 people turned out in the brisk morning air to see the birds released from their transport boxes, including Bushy Park Trust chairwoman Liz Tennet. She said once the birds flew into the bush several of them began to sing.
“It was awesome, and it was such a historic moment as there’s only two other places where the hihi have successfully been transposed onto the mainland.
“I think them singing to us like that is a good sign.”
The hihi project, which has been led by former trust chairman Allan Anderson, had been underway for about five years.
“Today has been the fruition of the process. We’ve installed food stations and nesting boxes for them which has been done by volunteers, and we’ve had to ensure they’re able to enter a disease-free environment.
“We had a delay about a year because one of the birds was diagnosed with salmonella, but after some testing we established that wasn’t a problem. It still set us back for a while.”
Ms Tennet said many Wanganui businesses and individuals had contributed, as had a crown Prince from Abu Dhabi, but more donations would be needed.
“We’ve attached little radio transmitters to some of them, that cost about $10,000, and we’ll be using aeroplanes or helicopters to monitor where they go. All the ongoing costs will need to be met somehow and we’re always happy to hear from people who want to help with money or time, even if it’s just two hours a month,” she said.
Guardians of the Hihi is a new initiative where a single hihi is sponsored for $55 or a pair for $100 and the donor receives a personalised certificate.If you want to volunteer or donate call Liz Tennet 027 295 0928.
source : wanganuichronicle.co.nz