skip to Main Content

Translocation and reintroduction of tīeke into our Sanctuary

Now that we are free of mammalian predators within the Sanctuary, a significant event occurred on 19 and 20 April 2021: the reintroduction of  40 tīeke birds, which have been absent from this region for more 120 years.

The tīeke birds, or saddleback, had been transported all the way from Motuara Island in the Queen Charlotte Sounds, by boat from there to Ships Cove, then by helicopter to a remote part of the Sanctuary for releasing there. The release was 100% successful, with all birds alive and well and keen to depart from their wooden boxes into their new home.

Constant vigilance with monitoring becomes even more critical, as these birds are particularly vulnerable to predation.

This is the culmination of many years of hard work and planning by staff and volunteers and is the first of many reintroductions of other species into our Sanctuary.

What does this mean for us?

The Sanctuary has been preparing itself for some time to be ready for the reintroduction of species that have been lost in this region over the last 200 years or more. The release of tīeke signifies a new stage and importance in the development of the Sanctuary for conservation of plant and animal species. This is because it has been recognised that we have the necessary infrastructure and done due diligence to ensure these species have the best possible chance of thriving and increasing in numbers. This opens the way to more reintroductions, such as tuatara, kaka, kakariki and kiwi.

What is a Successful Translocation?

Establishment is achieved when a population has become self-sustaining. Depending on the release environment and species involved, this may take several years and may require multiple follow-up translocations to ensure that the population is large enough, and has sufficient genetic diversity, for long-term stability.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful translocation, among them handling the birds with care, selecting healthy individuals, keeping the birds well fed and watered, and minimizing stress and overheating during transport and release. With careful management, this can be minimised.

Translocations of birds to the mainland is more challenging than to offshore islands. The water surrounding islands acts not only as a barrier for invasive predators, but also hinders introduced birds from leaving. In contrast, due to the open nature of mainland sanctuaries, post-release dispersal away from the release site can be a challenge. Our Sanctuary is unique because of it is connected to the much larger Mount Richmond forest of approximately 160,000 hectares. However, the Sanctuary will provide more than ample food and water for tīeke for years to come, with a flourishing predator-free undergrowth. However, once the population is stable inside the fence, it offers a great opportunity for tīeke to overflow into the surrounding forest. The high connectivity of our Sanctuary will become a key characteristic, if and when Predator Free 2050 succeeds throughout New Zealand.

Once the birds are released, retaining the biosecurity of the Sanctuary will be essential. This includes maintaining the integrity of the fence, rapid and effective responses to breaches and detections and continuing regular Sanctuary-wide pest surveys. While this is already being done, there will have to be greater vigilance from now on.

The translocation process

The tīeke that were released into the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary came from Motuara Island in the Queen Charlotte Sounds.  The population on Motuara Island was established in 1994 from descendants of the birds rescued from Big South Cape Island in the 1960’s. They are thriving and healthy. In capturing the birds, preference was given to sub-adults as this may reduce post-release dispersal.  They were then transported to the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary by helicopter. The tīeke were welcomed at Third House and then released into the Sanctuary. The site was selected for its distance from the fence and proximity to fresh water.

Iwi participated in the handover of the birds on both Motuara Island and at the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary. The ceremony included mihi whakatau, waiata and karakia, prior to the manu (birds) being released. The Sanctuary wants to acknowledge the support of mana whenua iwi in this translocation.

Following the release, birds will be monitored using playback calls, acoustic recorders, and five-minute bird counts.  Monitoring efforts will be conducted regularly, and a long-term monitoring plan will be established.

What You can do to help

The Sanctuary needs to continue to be predator-free which means high biosecurity vigilance, so we need lots of volunteer help with pest monitoring surveys as well as with donations to help cover costs. Why not join us?

When visiting the Sanctuary it will help us if people can report back to the Visitor Center if they sight or hear tīeke during their walk. Birds will have different coloured leg bands and if these can be observed, without disturbing the bird, it will help us build a picture of where individual birds are within the Sanctuary. We would also welcome high-quality pictures and video footage to add to our archives.

People can help by observing the rule of not walking their dogs close to the outside of the fence of the Sanctuary.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer, please click here

Financial support

If you wish to make a donation or find out more about becoming a sponsor of the Sanctuary, please click here

Video of the Translocation

You can view some short snippets of video about the release of these birds here  and here

Banding a tieke on Motuara Island prior to translocation
Our ecologist Robert Schadewinkel unloading boxes with tieke from the helicopter
The team on the main release day, 19 April 2021
local iwi representatives with the mihi prior to taking the tieke in boxes down to the release site
transporting the tieke boxes to the release site
long term volunteer Don Fraser releasing the birds from the boxes
A tieke directly after release getting its bearings before flying into the forest

There are so many ways you can get involved.



Back To Top