A rare endemic bird wearing an astronaut helmet and riding a rocket to space features as part of a fundraising drive by Rocket Lab in northern Hawke's Bay.

The company is raising money for DoC's protection efforts of the critically endangered tūturuatu, or shore plover, located on Waikawa, Portland Island, off the tip of the Mahia Peninsula.

The number of tūturuatu on the island has risen to more than 80 since DOC introduced them in 1999, making up 33 per cent of the world's total population.
Rocket Lab has released a limited-edition Race To Space mission patch with all proceeds going towards DoC's tūturuatu protection programme.

The patch was designed by conservation scientist Dr Stephanie Galla, a former researcher at the University of Canterbury who worked with DoC to manage threatened birds from Boise, Idaho, as part of a global competition.

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Rocket Lab has released a limited-edition Race To Space mission patch with all proceeds going towards DOC's tūturuatu protection programme in Mahia. Image Supplied
Rocket Lab has released a limited-edition Race To Space mission patch with all proceeds going towards DOC's tūturuatu protection programme in Mahia. Image Supplied

Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 manager, Chuck Dowdell, said staff have supported tūturuatu conservation by dedicating their time and transport.

"The Mahia Peninsula is a special place for our team as the home of our first launch site and a place of cultural and environmental importance. As the launchers of the world's 4th most frequently launched rocket in the world last year, we're determined to be a leader in not just the sustainable use of space but also kaitiaki of the land on which we operate and the environment around us."

DoC biodiversity ranger Helen Jonas, who leads tūturuatu work on Waikawa, said: "Tūturuatu are unique and quirky little birds but sadly they're a critically threatened species. There are only about 250 in the wild with secure populations are just on three islands, the second-largest population being Waikawa.

"We really appreciate support like this fundraising patch, which will help boost the resources available for protecting tūturuatu and also raise awareness. These little guys need all the help they can get."

The survival of the endangered shore plover relies on island biosecurity, captive breeding, and translocations to predator-free islands. The wild population is about 250 birds with secure populations in the Chatham Islands, Waikawa (Portland Island) on the East Coast and Motutapu Island in Auckland.

Introduced predators are the main reason for shore plover vanishing from New Zealand's coastlines. Offshore islands are a refuge from cats and rats, however, all sites are at risk of rat invasions.

The limited-edition Rocket Lab Mission Patch is available at shop.rocketlab.co.nz.