Course gives weka a fighting chance


More Far North dogs and their owners can learn how to avoid unwittingly killing flightless native birds - but the targeted species in their lesson this time is weka, not kiwi.

The second weka aversion training course will be held in Matauwhi Bay Reserve, Russell next Monday as a result of requests from Russell dog-owners.

It will be for dogs and owners who have not yet been trained as well as a refresher for those who took part in a similar weka aversion course in May last year.

Heather Lindauer, who took her dog to last year's course, said that on their morning walk the day after that training her dog saw a weka, stopped, pointed, but did not attempt to "engage".

Pete Graham, DoC's Whangarei kiwi ranger, runs weka and kiwi aversion courses.

"It was great to see Russell dog owners at the 2012 course showing an awareness of weka in their area and the threat their dogs potentially pose to these and other ground-dwelling birds," he said.

Bay of Islands community relations ranger Helen Ough Dealy said that North Island weka numbers had fallen nationally from 100,000 to about 7000 over the past 25 years.

Most of those remaining in the North Island were on Kawau Island, but the Russell/Cape Brett peninsula was probably the only place with both kiwi and weka inhabiting the same area.

"Weka are a boom or bust type of bird," Ms Dealy said. "They have already died out on the Russell peninsula twice before. No-one's quite sure why - possibly predators such as stoats and roaming dogs, dry summers with little food or maybe a combination of factors."

The current population was reintroduced by Russell Landcare Trust in 2002. From 39 original birds there are now estimated to be 1500 living amongst the Russell, Te Wahapu, Tapeka and Okiato communities and across the peninsula.

Dog owners interested in the weka aversion and refresher training can call 09-4039006 or send an email to hodealy@doc.govt.nz.

The weka or woodhen (Gallirallus australis) is a flightless bird of the rail family.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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