New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) are showing the world how ecological islands can help bring species back from the brink of extinction. They’ve created pest free island refuges for some of New Zealand’s most endangered fauna, including Malherbe’s parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi).
Before they can begin, all the invasive species (e.g. rats and stoats) must be removed from the island which will provide suitable wildlife habitat. Islands are chosen because the surrounding ocean presents a natural barrier to any invasive species. It’s a big swim for rats and stoats!
Malherbe’s parakeet is the most endangered New Zealand parakeet. They are endemic to the South Island with only 200 – 300 individuals remaining in the wild. DOC released 62 captive bred Malherbe’s parakeets onto Maude Island and hopefully it will become another success story.
The parakeets couldn’t wait to form breeding pairs getting together at just 7 – 11 months of age. They weren’t too fussy where they nested and chose several sub-habitats within the regenerating forest. One of the captive bred birds even found a wild mate adding some genetic diversity into the population!
Maude Island is being used wisely to help populations of the Kakapo, Takahe and Maude Island frog also recover. In an effort to avoid disturbing these other endangered fauna, surveys to establish the breeding success of the parakeets was restricted to certain parts of the island. Nonetheless, newly fledged parakeets were seen demonstrating at least several successful breeding attempts.
The ability of the parakeets to successfully breed in a diverse array of regenerating habitats within a year, shows just how effective these ecological islands are for recovering species. Removing the introduced competitors and predators rebalances the table and lets the natives recover.
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