Making a difference: Hutton's Shearwater, an Endangered New Zealand endemic seabird, gets community support

The Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust was formed in 2008 to encourage and promote the conservation, research, public education and sustainable management of Hutton's Shearwater Puffinus huttoni.

Hutton's Shearwater is an Endangered seabird endemic to Kaikoura on the mainland of North Island, New Zealand  where it breeds in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges at elevations from 1200-1800 m in two remaining colonies.  These colonies are under threat from pigs Sus scrofa, Stoats Mustela erminea and other introduced predators, and from natural hazards such as avalanches and earthquakes.

From 2005 to 2008 the New Zealand Department of Conservation led a translocation project whereby nearly 300 chicks were moved from the Kowhai mountain colony to the Kaikoura Peninsula in an attempt to establish a third breeding colony.  The translocated chicks were placed in artificial burrows.

The first record of a bird returning to the translocation colony was in December 2008.  More birds returned in summer 2009/10 at the time that a predator-proof fence was being erected.  The fence was completed in February 2010 and an intensive pest eradication programme was undertaken in June 2010.  Two incubating birds that had been translocated to the site as chicks were found in burrows during the 2010/11 summer as presumed first-time breeders, although both eggs were subsequently lost (click here for more details in the latest newsletter of the Trust).

The Trust has also been investigating the migration of Hutton's Shearwaters by attaching geo-locators to leg bands.  In January 2010, 20 of these devices were put on breeding shearwaters in the Kowhai colony.   Preliminary analyses of 18 recovered devices show post-breeding movements into Australian waters.

The activities of the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust demonstrate how a local community can come together to successfully address a local conservation issue.  What ACAP-listed species could benefit from such an approach?

Selected references:

Cuthbert, R.J. 1999.  The breeding ecology and conservation of Hutton's shearwater (Puffinus huttoni).  PhD Thesis, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] 2001.  The role of introduced mammals and inverse density-dependent predation in the conservation of Hutton's shearwater.  Biological Conservation 108: 69-78.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] 2001.  Conservation and ecology of Hutton's shearwater (Puffinus huttoni). Conservation Advisory Science Notes No. 335.  35 pp.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] 2003.  Sign left by introduced and native predators feeding on Hutton's shearwaters Puffinus huttoniNew Zealand Journal of Zoology 30: 163-170.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] & Davis, L.S. 2002.  The impact of predation by introduced stoats on Hutton's shearwaters, New Zealand.  Biological Conservation 108: 79-92.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] & Davis, L.S. 2002.  The breeding biology of Hutton's Shearwater.  Emu 102: 323-329.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] & Davis, L.S. 2002.  Adult survival and productivity of Hutton's Shearwaters.  Ibis 144: 423-432.

Cuthbert, R.[J.] & Sommer, E. 2003.  Home range, territorial behaviour and habitat use of stoats (Mustela erminea) in a colony of Hutton's shearwater (Puffinus huttoni), New Zealand.  New Zealand Journal of Zoology 29: 149-160.

Cuthbert, R.[J.], Fletcher, D. & Davis, L.S. 2001.  A sensitivity analysis of Hutton's shearwater: prioritizing conservation research and management Biological Conservation 100:  163-172.

Cuthbert, R.[J.], Sommer, E. & Davis, L.S. 2000.  Seasonal variation in the diet of stoats in a breeding colony of Hutton's shearwaters.  New Zealand Journal of Zoology 27: 367-373.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 July 2011

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ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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