How much do you know about our Wild Work? As a not-for-profit conservation organisation, Auckland Zoo is committed to safeguarding our beautiful planet, all of its remarkable species, and spectacular landscapes for generations to come. We bring you #Wildwork Wednesday to show you some remarkable people, undertaking extraordinary work in NZ and abroad.

This WildWork Wednesday we’re showcasing another of Auckland Zoo’s small grant recipients, but this one is a little closer to home. The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund Small Grants Programme exists to help provide small levels of funding for ongoing projects or pilot programmes with clear conservation value, and conserving Aotearoa’s native seabirds is an ongoing project all Kiwis can get behind.

Kotuku Peninsula is a 240ha predator fenced area on Aotea (Great Barrier Island), and home to some of New Zealand’s precious native seabirds – two of which are listed as vulnerable and only breed on Aotea and Hauturu ō Toi (Little Barrier Island). Through the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund we contributed to Glenfern Sanctuary’s critical surveying in this beautiful part of New Zealand, to monitor the incumbent seabird population, and collect breeding and fledgling data for these vulnerable birds.

To do this work Glenfern Sanctuary enlisted the help of conservationist Jo Sims and Rua – a specialist conversation dog – to locate burrows with a focus on the vulnerable Cook’s and Black Petrel/takoketai.

In December 2018, Jo and Rua spent time in the Sanctuary searching for seabird burrows,  and excitingly, they were able to locate and find 10 new seabird burrows – five takoketai, three cook’s petrels, and two of an unknown seabird species. Being able to create a database of burrow locations helps enable more intensive and targeted predator control, and ensure these birds are given every opportunity to safely breed, and grow their vulnerable populations. When a young bird has developed wing feathers that are large enough for flight, it is referred to as fledging the nest – and this is what the team is monitoring for – breeding activity within the located burrows until May this year to determine fledging success. Two staff members from Wildlife Management International also got involved – volunteering their time and checking the health of fledglings, and banding some of the newly hatched chicks.

A predator fence is in place here, but at low tide each day cats can access the peninsula, and there is a small controlled population of rats within the fence. Predator control is a large part of any conservation project, and despite being within a predator fence, this project is no different. With support from our small grants programme, Glenfern were also able to purchase an extra five live-capture cat traps, and Econodes (a wireless monitoring system used to check traps in large or rugged areas) were installed on all cat traps in the network.

Alongside research, surveying, monitoring, and exceptional predator control, education is another important piece of the conservation puzzle. Glenfern Sanctuary hosted The Great Takoketai Easter Egg Hunt for the local community to celebrate the fledging of these birds, and also to educate tamariki and their families about the sea birds that live locally, the other taonga that call Aotearoa home, and provide insight into the threats our native birds face.

New Zealand birds are extremely unique; many are flightless, ground-dwelling, produce large eggs and small clutches – and all these things have contributed to their decline since the introduction of humans, who brought predators with them, and cleared habitat for homes and agriculture. Auckland Zoo is committed to protecting wildlife and wild places, and our Small Grants Programme allows us to fund projects overseas, and also contribute to projects in Aotearoa, enabling Glenfern Sanctuary and many others, to be kaitiaki for the sea birds on their own shores.

Do you have a project like this one, or a big idea that needs funding to get it on its feet? Details for our next round of funding will be available in September 2019.