Sanctuary's 'halo effect' boosts birds

Dunedin is reaffirming its status as the wildlife capital of New Zealand thanks to a range of conservation projects that are starting to pay off.

Birdlife around Dunedin has taken a big leap forward in the last couple of years, with a resurgent tui population and other birds now making a comeback.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary chairman Neville Peat said there had been many sightings of kaka outside the sanctuary, and of other birds that had not been seen in the area for more than 100 years.

Work was now under way to ensure the ''halo effect'' from the sanctuary could take hold outside the predator-proof areas.

Beyond Orokonui project spokesman Rhys Millar said many landowners in North Dunedin and East Otago were putting a lot of effort into protecting wildlife.

''There are some very proactive landowners in this area that is for sure. You can see it linking with the Peninsula and collectively working towards that Dunedin wildlife capital status.

''I think it needs a bit of work to hold that status but I think if you look at the work that is going on in the Peninsula and the work that is going on up here, suddenly Dunedin looks pretty strong again.''

His project focused on the 600sq km area around Orokonui, and would involve a management plan, including pest control.

Mr Peat said the sanctuary was only just getting started and it would take decades to fill it with wildlife.

Some species like South Island saddlebacks would not survive long outside the sanctuary, while other species could keep their nests and chicks in the sanctuary but happily feed outside.

''When we lose them we just assume they have been taken by predators. They do [go missing] and it is a big job keeping track of it.''

Species introduced to the sanctuary were monitored by the University of Otago zoology department. Some birds were now too numerous to track, while others were breeding prolifically inside the sanctuary, including 144 South Island robin chicks that fledged this year alone.

The next addition to the sanctuary was likely to be red-crowned kakariki, which Mr Peat hoped could be introduced early next year.

A public information session about biodiversity values in the area will be held at 1.30pm on Saturday at Orokonui.

Well done everyone

A recent walk up Bethunes Gully to Mt Cargill seemed to bear out the claims in this article. While on the north face of Mt Cargill, the bird song was quite outstanding, even at 10.30 in the morning. Thought at the time that Orokonui must have had something to do with the increase in birdlife. Well done!

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