This summer’s inclement weather meant just three tara iti / New Zealand fairy tern chicks hatched and fledged in the wild this breeding season, and two of these chicks were subsequently lost to Cyclone Gabrielle.

Fortunately, working closely with the Department of Conservation for the third consecutive year, our skilled bird keepers were able to hatch and rear a further eight chicks at the Zoo, with seven of these eventually being released in the Kaipara Harbour, in an effort to boost the population of this critically threatened bird.

The New Zealand fairy tern has teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1970s and fewer than 40 birds survive today. Of this tiny population, just ten breeding are females, two of which bred for the first time this season.

“Many of the eggs intentionally collected for the hand-rearing trials this season likely would have been lost during the storms and extreme weather events, highlighting the potential of intensive management like hand-rearing for the future.

Unlike other managed species in Aotearoa, it is not currently feasible to transfer them to predator-free offshore islands as they require very specific ecosystems to nest and thrive.” says DOC’s tara iti senior ranger Alex Wilson.

We’re so pleased at the outcome of this new intensive management component to the species recovery programme, putting the Zoo’s specialist animal husbandry skills to their very best use, and look forward to building on these early successes in coming years.