Wellingtonians are working together to once again fill the sky with one of New Zealand’s largest and most beautiful native birds – the kererū.
The Kererū Discovery Project (KDP) aims to increase populations of kererū from Kāpiti Island through to the Wairarapa, and including Wellington City.
The focus on kererū is due to the critical role these birds play in restoring native forest –they are the only species left that can digest the large seeds of some of New Zealand’s native trees, including miro, tawa, rimu and matai. Because some of these seeds need to pass through the gut of a bird to germinate, the health of the forests now depends on kererū.
However, their numbers are a mere fraction of what they once were, so we need to take action to rebuild their populations or we risk losing New Zealand’s natural forests.
KDP aims to do just that. It brings together a range of Wellington-based organisations, including WWF-New Zealand, the Nikau Foundation, Wellington Regional and City Councils and district councils. As well, the original partners Te Papa, ZEALANDIA (Karori Sanctuary Trust), Victoria University and the Department of Conservation (DOC) continue to support the project.
KDP has three aims:
• To restore the health and diversity of Wellington’s landscapes.
• To raise public awareness of the importance of kererū in the survival of New Zealand’s forests.
• To enable people to take action for kererū conservation.
Its key messages are very simple, says Marc Slade, Terrestrial Programme Manager for WWF-New Zealand:
• Backyard choices make a difference.
• What's good for kererū is good for us.
• The bird in your backyard is the bird in the bush.
• Kererū are valuable for themselves.
• It doesn't stop with kererū.
“We believe that how urban gardens are managed is likely to be increasingly important to kererū.” Things people can do right now are to plant kererū-friendly species in gardens and reserves – such as kowhai, titoki, pigeonwood, ngaio, karamu or five-finger – and to carry out pest control in their local area – especially of rats, stoats, weasels and wild cats. Keeping domestic cats under control by attaching a bell or two to their collars and bringing them in at night will also help.
People across the Wellington region can also get involved in community groups restoring native habitat. “Local councils have good information on groups,” Marc says. Alternatively, people can contact the New Zealand Trust for Conservation Volunteers or Conservation Volunteers New Zealand.
The KDP partnership received a boost this year, with $10,000 funding from the Nikau Foundation (with the generous support of the Willscott Endowment Fund), and WWF-New Zealand (supported by the Tindall Foundation). Marc says this is appropriate as 2011 is the United Nations Year of the Forests and kererū are the champions of New Zealand’s forest recovery. “They’re a keystone species and need looking after.”
The funding is to kick-start a new phase in the project, which will involve local communities more actively. “One of the longer-term tactics we hope to use is establishing green corridors from places where the birds thrive, such as Kāpiti, through to the Wairarapa,” Marc says. Anecdotal evidence suggests kererū are returning in greater numbers to suburban areas in northern and western Wellington, and sightings have been made in the eastern Miramar Peninsula. “If there is population growth, finding out why and knowing how to support kererū in urban environments will help assure their survival and add to the social capital of the city.”
To find out more, visit the WWF-New Zealand website, email Marc of phone him at 04 815 8521.