During the past 12 months there has been an alarming 13% decline in Southern New Zealand Dotterel numbers. In the April population census, DOC discovered the population had slumped to just 126.
The Southern NZ Dotterel is a unique New Zealand native shore bird because it flies to alpine areas during its breeding season. The birds start building their nests on the alpine tops of Rakiura over spring and stay on the island until their chicks are old enough to return to the mudflats and estuaries of the Southland coast, in February. Because of the predation threat it faces, the Southern NZ Dotterel’s average life expectancy is currently 4-5 years instead of up to 30 years.
Senior DOC Ranger Kev Carter says the next four months are critical for DOC’s efforts to keep feral cats away from the nesting and hatching birds.
“Unfortunately, the Southern NZ Dotterel are highly motivated parents to defend nests and chicks and so that puts them in the pathway of these marauding feral cats,” says Carter.
The funds raised by the New Zealand Nature Fund will be used immediately to engage contractors to cut more tracks in and around Southern NZ Dotterel breeding areas and feral cat source sites to enable the DOC team to maximise their predator control efforts and better manage the nesting areas.
With some of the nesting areas up to two days travel by boat and walking from Oban, DOC also plans to fly in temporary two-person bivvies to enable Southern NZ Dotterel rangers to stay on site during nesting.
New Zealand Nature Fund Executive Officer Sarah Lyttle says this is not the first time the Southern NZ Dotterel has faced extinction. In 1992 the population plummeted to an all-time low of only 62 birds, but as a result of targeted predator control at Rakiura was back up to around 300 birds by 2010.
“The Southern NZ Dotterel is an integral part of New Zealand’s unique biodiversity, and we know from history that by rallying together with DOC, we can make a significant impact on its survival and protect their habitats.”
Former Minister of Conservation and Founder of New Zealand Nature Fund Denis Marshall says kiwis have a proud track record of digging deep to save our endangered species.
“Supporting this campaign will not only aid predator control efforts in the Southern NZ Dotterel’s breeding habitats but we’re also going to help fund crucial monitoring and research of the species. Every contribution counts, and we invite everyone to be a part of this vital conservation effort.”