Kaki / Black stilts are wading birds that live on the South Island’s braided rivers and wetlands. They are one of the world’s most endangered wading species. In 1999, the population of adults in the wild was 31, with only 4 wild breeding pairs. Numbers are now a bit over 100 including some captive breeding pairs.
Kaki will always have to be managed on the mainland as there are no suitable island habitats. While this makes their protection more challenging, it also makes the species highly visible and very accessible to the New Zealand public, and to international visitors.
Dean Nelson at DOC is on the front line to save kaki, and with the collapse of a local sponsorship deal he needed assistance for the 2007 breeding season. The current idea with kaki is to get as many eggs as possible from the wild and raise the chicks in captivity until they are old enough to better fend for themselves. Dean also needed to gather information on what was mostly killing kaki so that they could better target protection efforts.
To this end, Fauna Recovery New Zealand provided funds ($12,400) for 50 new and refurbished transmitters for fitting to the released young kaki. Luckily they mostly stayed within the managed area, this time.
This project highlights just how difficult it is to envisage long-term in situ protection on the mainland. It requires commitment from conservationists (forever unless a breakthrough with mainland predator eradication is made) and steady, sufficient funding without hiccups.
Main photo courtesy and Copyright Dick Veitch, DOC.