January 15, 2016

Cape Sanctuary

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Cape Sanctuary is the largest privately owned and funded wildlife restoration project of its kind in New Zealand. The sanctuary is situated on three properties on the Cape Kidnappers peninsula; Cape Kidnappers Station owned by Julian Robertson, part of Haupouri Station owned by the Hansen family and Ocean Beach Wilderness Property owned by Andy and Liz Lowe.

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The vision which extends more than 50 years is to bring back the coastal communities of land birds, sea birds, reptiles and invertebrates that would once have existed on the Cape Kidnappers peninsula.

It was the drive of Andy Lowe that made this wildlife sanctuary a reality. The initiative is unique in that it is the first time large-scale wildlife conservation has been undertaken in a highly modified farming and multi-use landscape.

The first stage of the project was to build a predator-proof fence stretching 10.6 km across the neck of the peninsula from coast to coast. The fence which was completed in 2007 prevents predators reinvading the 2500 ha headland. Pests can however sneak around the fence ends from time to time and so an intensive pest control programme also operates continuously within the protected area.

Two people are involved with pest control 24/7 with over 1,400 traps for mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels) and 2,200 bait stations for rodents (rats and mice). These are checked on a regular basis with assistance from a dedicated volunteer team. The aim is to knock out everything from rat size upwards – ferrets, stoats, cats, goats, possums, hedgehogs etc. Possums have almost been eradicated from the peninsula but feral cats still pose a problem with over 750 caught to date.

The first reintroductions began in 2007 with the transfer of forest birds such as tomtit, whitehead, rifleman and robin from other parts of Hawkes Bay. These are now breeding well within the sanctuary.

In 2008, the first brown kiwi were introduced and there are currently 55 in the sanctuary. This season there have already been two nests so breeding is underway.

Pateke or brown teal, of which there are only approximately 1200 remaining, has also been released at the sanctuary – several pairs are nesting at the moment and there are ducklings everywhere. There are now more than 150 pateke in the sanctuary.

The landowners aim is to restore breeding colonies of sea birds as well as land birds. The area would have once been home to thousands and thousands of burrowing sea birds who spend most of their life on the sea but come to the land to breed. They are no longer present on the peninsula. They need to be re-established both for their sake and for the sake of a variety of invertebrates, reptiles and plants, which thrive in the nutrient rich habitat that the seabirds create.

50 grey faced petrel chicks were transferred to the sanctuary in 2008, 75 in 2009 and 75 in 2010. Another 75 will be transferred this coming summer. The chicks are carefully hand raised until they fledge and begin their journey to maturity out at sea. At 3 to 5 years of age they are expected to return to the sanctuary to prospect and eventually breed forming a new colony.

150 Cook’s petrel have also been transferred to the sanctuary and another 100 will be collected and hand-raised in March 2012.

Little blue penguins were numerous in the past and the project is currently working on increasing their numbers. Boxes have been dug in along the coastline to provide additional roosting and nesting habitat. More than 30 of the boxes have been used and last season some contained eggs and chicks.

Variable Oystercatcher are now breeding successfully in the sanctuary along with nine pairs of the rare New Zealand dotterels and other shorebirds.

Volunteers continue to play a huge part in this project and the Department of Conservation has been very supportive of the efforts of the landowners. The achievements thus far would not have happened without the support of so many people.

If you would like more information or to become involved as a volunteer please contact Tamsin or phone 027 2273 543