Historic release for rare pāteke

Fiordland Lobster Company representatives Ann Sutton (left) and Jane Richards were quickly briefed by Kevin Evans of the Pāteke Recovery Group before releasing the rare waterfowl into the wild. PHOTO: Claire Kaplan

Twenty pāteke, or brown teal, were released yesterday (May 25) onto Resolution Island in Dusky Sound.

Sponsored by the Fiordland Lobster Company, the project returned one of the world’s rarest waterfowl to Dusky Sound after an absence of over a century.

DOC principal ranger (biodiversity) Lindsay Wilson said that the aim was to establish Dusky Sound’s first wild pāteke population since they became locally extinct in the late nineteenth century.

“In 1840, pāteke was our country’s most abundant waterfowl. A mixture of predation by stoats, and hunting, saw their numbers plummet.

“Thanks to the support from key partners, establishing a new, self-sustaining, wild pāteke population could see numbers of this rare species continue to grow,” Mr Wilson said.

The pāteke were reared in captivity at sites throughout New Zealand. They were then taken to Peacock Springs wildlife sanctuary in Christchurch before being flown to Queenstown by Air New Zealand.

Representatives from Fiordland Conservation Trust, Fiordland Lobster Company, DOC's Pāteke Recovery Group, and Ngai Tahu released the birds onto Resolution Island.

Fiordland Conservation Trust deputy chairman Murray Willans said the trust was a proud to lead on this project and to support the pāteke transfer. In addition the trust was grateful for the financial assistance from the Fiordland Lobster Company, he said.

The company contributed just over $26,000 to cover all aspects of the project, from purchasing transmitters for each bird to helicopter monitoring.

“Significantly, this is another first for Fiordland Lobster Company in aiding the return of native birds to Dusky Sound. For the last three years they have sponsored the release of little spotted kiwi on Anchor Island. These birds are now breeding.” Mr Willans said.

The pāteke will be monitored for up to two weeks after release and once a month during their first year. If the population settles into their new home, it is likely that more pāteke will be moved to Resolution Island.


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