Source: Department of Conservation
It’s been said many times already – but 2020 was truly a year like no other! Through lockdowns and changing alert levels many New Zealanders have developed a new appreciation for nature and our environment.
We take a look back and countdown some of the biggest conservation stories throughout the year...
The year started off with an extreme weather event that caused a significant amount of damage to our facilities in Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Park, damaging more than 78 tracks on public conservation land.
Thanks to a huge effort by our staff and contractors a majority of these tracks were able to reopen in March… only to close again due to COVID-19.
Stoat prints were first spotted by a ranger on Motutapu Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf on May 20. Stoats pose a significant risk to threatened native birds and lizards – a dead kākāriki was found in May, killed by the stoat.
In September the stoat was caught in a trap on the neighbouring Rangitoto Island. Further monitoring confirmed this was the target stoat. We were all able to breathe a bit more easier knowing that our endangered species were safe from this pest.
In March we moved one step closer to protecting our native fauna and flora with the launch of the Predator Free 2050 Strategy – ‘Towards a Predator Free New Zealand.
The strategy sets out a structure to achieve the Predator Free goal in the next 30 years, and the action plan describes what we need to do over the next five years. Find out more: http://www.doc.govt.nz/pf2050
Our Royal Cam star, Atawhai, fledged in September bringing our 2019/20 Royal Cam season to a close. During times when we couldn’t be out in nature, our Royal Cam live stream offered us an outlet, allowing us to bring nature and all of its benefits into our homes, at all hours of the day.
A big thanks to New York’s Cornell University, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Cams for this season. Our partners improved our live stream exposure and upgraded our cam, allowing us to pan, zoom and use night vision to capture all aspects of the nest. Thanks also to Te Poari a Pukekura Co-management Trust and The Royal Albatross Centre for their support.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020, will guide the way all of Aotearoa works to protect and restore nature. Te Mana o te Taiao (launched in August 2020) sets out a strategic framework for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity, particularly indigenous biodiversity, in Aotearoa New Zealand, from 2020 to 2050.
In June we paid tribute to a legend in New Zealand conservation, much-loved native animal protector and all-round good boy, Neo the Whio Dog, who sadly passed away.
During his 15 years with his best mate and handler, Opotiki-based Andy Glaser, Neo supported a wide range of threatened species programmes with his considerable nasal skills.
On June 19 we celebrated the inaugural World Albatross Day. This was a chance to celebrate these magnificent ocean voyagers and highlight the ongoing threats they face.
New Zealand is packed full of natural wonders but did you know that 13 species/sub-species of albatross breed in New Zealand – that’s more than anywhere else in the world!
In August we released 104 juvenile kakī/black stilts – the world’s rarest wading bird – into the wild in the South Island’s Mackenzie Basin as part of the Kakī Recovery Programme.
The birds were released into the Godley Valley in three separate releases and attended by classes from Twizel Area, Arowhenua and Tekapo schools.
Anecdotal reports of more birdlife on the Heaphy Track were backed up by a five-year study showing increased numbers of some forest birds.
Further monitoring is needed to be confident that increased predator control is causing the upswing in birdlife, but so far this appears to be the case.
Everything changed in New Zealand when we went to Alert Level 4. For us, one of the big changes was closing our huts and campgrounds to stop the spread and save lives.
Thanks to the sacrifices and perseverance of New Zealanders we were able to get back out in to nature in June, albeit with some changes in behaviour to ensure we did so safely.
We’re hoping for a bigger and brighter year for conservation and recreation in 2021!