A visit to the Tïtï Islands, March 2005
Taukihepa Island, looking toward the South end of Rakiura (photo: H. Nevins)
Tïtï Islands are one of the worlds treasures of endemic flora and fauna. Because the birds provide a rich nutrient supply, to the islands, the resulting vegetation is stunning. The islands edges are fringed with a canopy of silvery green-gray Teteaweka (Olearia oporina), tree daisies under which the tïtï nest. On the larger islands, such as Taukihepa larger canopy trees such as Rata (Metrosideros umbellata) occur along the semi-protected hillsides, and provide a shaded understory comprised of a diverse assemblage of ferns, hebe, punui, and climbing vines of supplejack (Ripogonum scandens). However, on islands were ship rats (Ratttus rattus) or Kiore (R. exultans) are present, there is noticeable damage to the native plants. As a result, on islands with rats the understory vegetation is less diverse than on rat-free islands.
Kakariki (photo: Jamie Newman)
This gorgeous kakariki or Red-fronted Parakeet (Cynanoramphus novaezelandiae), currently occurs in lower abundance than prior to the 1964 rat irruption on Taukihepa (Big South Cape Island). Kakariki are cavity-nesting species and thus vulnerable to disturbance from rats, also competition for food must be important in limiting the abundance of this species on rat-infested islands. Thus the tītī restoration project should benefit these birds.
Tieke or South Island Saddleback (photo: Jamie Newman)
The truly inspiring part of this conservation project is the potential for reestablishing the Tieke (Philesturnus carunculatus) on Taukihepa Island once rats are removed. Taukihepa Island was once the last strong hold for this species, which was only found here before the rat irruption and certain eminent extinction of this species was circumvented by conservationists who removed 36 individuals from Taukihepa and place them on nearby Kaimohu and Big Islands. Since 1986, Saddlebacks from this immigrant population have been translocated to several predator-free islands throughout the known historic range, including Breaksea and Ulva Islands.
Learn more about Tieke
Blessing of the project, March 2006
On March 20, A small gathering of birders, researchers, eradication specialists, and others involved in the project gathered together for a ceremony to bless the project at the high vantage point of Taukihepa where the surrounding islands could be addressed.
Maria sings a blessing song at the ceremony for the project (photo: Hannah Nevins)
Large insects such as Weta and beetles were more abundant on Tïtï Islands. Once ship rats invaded Taukihepa, a large flightless weevil (Hadramphus stilbocarpuae) became locally extinct. Rodents depredate invertebrates and are especially devasting to flightless forms. Rat-free islands offer valueable refuges for these species.
Stag beetle (Geodorcus spp.) observed on rat-free Pohowaitai Island (photo: H. Nevins)
Bait Deployment! - July 2006
A specialized helo operator deploys bait over Taukihepa (photo: Pete McClelland)
On July 18, the Department of Conservation, working alongside local muttonbirders, successfully spread more than 7 tonnes of bait over the four rat-infested islands off the south-western corner of Stewart Island.
This bait drop was the first of two designed to eradicate all rats from Taukihepa (Big South Cape Island), Pukeweka, Rerewhakaupoko (Solomon) and nearby Mokonui (Big Moggy) islands to allow for the recovery of a range of endangered species and the restoration of the islands unique ecosystem (See press release).
Robert Coote, a birder and member of Ka Mate Nga Kiore says that all parties involved in the project have put in long hours of voluntary work to reverse a major past environmental catastrope.
It's not over yet however as we have just as great a challenge ahead gearing up to establish the quarantine procedure that will ensure the rats will never come back.
- Mr. Coote
Keep the Titi Islands pest-free!
Quaratine methods include taking extra care when you are:
- packing at home
- travelling by boat
- using helocopters
- unpacking at the islands
- travelling between islands