Whānau assist with mōhua transfer

The mōhua (yellowhead) population in the Eglinton Valley, Fiordland, recently received a boost with the release of 80 birds that were transferred from Anchor Island in Dusky Sound.

DOC staff member, Hannah Edmonds and Jarden releasing some of the mōhua. Photo supplied by the Department of Conservation.

DOC staff member, Hannah Edmonds and Jarden releasing some of the mōhua. Photo supplied by the Department of Conservation.

The Mōhua Charitable Trust supported the transfer, working in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka.
Ōraka Aparima members, John Roberts and his son, Jarden travelled as the Papatipu Rūnaka and iwi representatives for the trip.

Lindsay Wilson, who is the DOC principal ranger, says that in the early 2000s there were just 18 mōhua left in the surrounding Eglinton Valley area.

“Mōhua would once have numbered in the hundreds but plummeted due to stoat and rat predation.

“The Department of Conservation now undertakes intensive pest control in the Eglinton Valley to keep pest numbers low and species like mōhua alive and well,” she says.

In 2010, sixty-nine mōhua were moved from Chalky Island (an island that is part of the Fiordland National Park and southwest of New Zealand) to the Eglinton Valley in an effort to re-establish the species. Of the number released, 34 birds in total stayed and settled in the valley, with 62 chicks fledging that year.

Intensive pest management in the Eglinton Valley – a combination of traps, bait stations, and last year, aerial 1080 – has allowed the area to become a mainland stronghold for a variety of endangered native species including mōhua, long and short-tailed bats, kākā and kākāriki.
Since then the population has remained relatively stable, with the survival of young birds staying high (74- 81%).

John and Lindsay working together to help boost the mōhua population. Photo supplied by the Department of Conservation.

John and Hannah working together to help increase the mōhua population. Photo supplied by the Department of Conservation.

Mōhua are particularly vulnerable to predation from rats and stoats because they tend to nest in holes and cavities in trees, making it difficult to escape if a predator visits the nest. Several rats have been recorded by video cameras eating eggs and adult mōhua on the nest during the large pest plague in 2005
Since then the population has remained relatively stable, with the survival of young birds staying high (74- 81%).

The birds were once widespread across Te Waipounamu, but their numbers have dwindled on the mainland due to predation from introduced animals and habitat loss. Secure populations of mōhua exist on a number of predator-free islands, allowing reintroductions to take place back to protected mainland sites.

The Anchor Island mōhua population were trans-located from Breaksea Island in 2003. Since then this island population has grown, and is thought to be at or near carrying capacity.

The Eglinton Valley is one of the few road-accessible valleys in the Fiordland National Park, and is a popular stop-off point for visitors to Milford Sound.

Story courtesy of the Department of Conservation and Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka.