Native species thrive in Wellington sanctuary

Visitors cross the lower dam on a raised boardwalk.
Visitors cross the lower dam on a raised boardwalk.
Zealandia was the first site to establish a wild population of tuatara on the mainland. 
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Zealandia was the first site to establish a wild population of tuatara on the mainland. ...
A pair of takahe, Nio and Orbell, relocated to Zealandia for their retirement following a...
A pair of takahe, Nio and Orbell, relocated to Zealandia for their retirement following a successful breeding life, produced yet ...
In 2002 Zealandia 
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In 2002 Zealandia ...
A pied shag with young on the lower dam with a view of the historic water tower 
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A pied shag with young on the lower dam with a view of the historic water tower ...
Who’s the pretty poser? North Island robin/
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Who’s the pretty poser? North Island robin/ ...
Little shags began nesting at Zealandia in 2003. Numbers roosting at the sanctuary fluctuate 
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Little shags began nesting at Zealandia in 2003. Numbers roosting at the sanctuary fluctuate seasonally, with up to 70 birds counted during winter, and fewer than 10 in February when nesting is over and fledglings have become independent.
Kaka had effectively been extinct in Wellington since the early 20th 
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Kaka had effectively been extinct in Wellington since the early 20th century, until a small number were transferred Zealandia in 2002. Fourteen captive-bred kaka were transferred from zoos between 2002 and 2007.
Good things take time. Twenty-five years on and still in its infancy, Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in Wellington has an ambitious vision to restore a 225ha valley to the way it was before the arrival of humans. Illustrations editor Stephen Jaquiery took his camera for a half-day walk around the sanctuary recently and reports on what he found.


Admiring the beautiful wooden villas which grace Wellington’s hilly suburbs, I did not miss the irony that these buildings were the product of colonial deforestation which directly impacted our native wildlife population.

I was waiting for a bus to take me to my first visit to Zealandia, a wildlife sanctuary near the heart of our capital city when suddenly, swooping out of a vista of weatherboard houses , a beautiful kaka with its crimson and orange plumage covered wings spread wide in a flare, glided overhead before disappearing into the urban city behind.

This is one of many Zealandia success stories. From 14 kaka introduced between 2002 and 2007, more than 1000 birds have been banded and many more unbanded birds populate the city.

In the beginning, Jim Lynch, Zealandia’s founder, wrote a document in 1990 on how to preserve and enhance the natural treasures of Wellington. Not long after, he identified the Wellington city Karori reservoir as a possible site for a wildlife sanctuary, even though at that time it was still an operative water supply.

Following the inevitable rounds of politics, and fundraising, an 8.6km, 2.2m-high predator fence enclosed the 225ha ecosanctuary in 1999.

Today it is home to about 30 bird species, many reptiles, insects, and amphibians and a wealth of native plants.

The sanctuary has also attracted an army of over 500 volunteers who help paid staff maintain vegetation, monitor traps, check the perimeter fence and with feeding.

This season, the conservation team have banded 58 rifleman (titipounamu) alone. These birds were only relocated to Zealandia in April 2019.

And dare we dream? Perhaps in 500 years’ time, when the vision is complete, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park may no longer be just a science fiction movie.

 

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