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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.