Early Christmas present for Abel Tasman

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Forget about Christmas turkey. The Abel Tasman National Park has had a surprise gift of rare native ducks for Christmas.

A surprise opportunity to boost the pāteke / brown teal population in the park saw 31 of the native ducks released on the banks of the lower Awapoto River, at Hadfield Clearing, near Awaroa today. Abel Tasman Youth Ambassadors and students from Motupipi Primary School, Motueka High School and Golden Bay High School were on hand to release the manu (birds).

Department of Conservation senior biodiversity ranger Jim Livingstone says the National Pāteke Captive Breed for Release programme has had better than expected breeding success this season and the programmes’ pre-release conditioning facility at the Isaac Wildlife and Conservation Trust (Peacock Springs) is nearing capacity.

“They needed somewhere to release 31 pāteke into the wild and even though we weren’t expecting to translocate any more to the Abel Tasman this year we were delighted to be able to help out and further boost the pāteke population in the park,” he says.

Project Janszoon and DOC have released 90 pāteke in the Abel Tasman since 2017 and the birds are thriving with at least four sets of ducklings hatched in the wild.

“The Abel Tasman is one of only two sites for pāteke in the South Island. We’re not losing them to predation, they aren’t flying away and they are breeding in the wild – we are very pleased at how things are going,” says Project Janszoon ornithologist Ron Moorhouse.

Pāteke Recovery Group captive co-ordinator Kevin Evans says when a sudden influx of bird numbers started putting pressure on Peacock Sprints I immediately thought of the Abel Tasman.

“This does happen occasionally and it is fantastic to have a site with two years of proven track history where we can feel confident about releasing the extra birds into when we have capacity issues. All the signs are there that we can establish a self-sustaining population of pāteke in the Abel Tasman and I’d expect to be releasing more birds in 2019,” says Kevin.

It is hoped up to 300 pāteke will be released in the Abel Tasman National Park over the next few years.

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