Millions of dollars are being spent each year to protect some of our most endangered species.
Data from the Department of Conservation shows up to $3.5 million each year is spent on five species alone.
$1.3 million is being spent on the whio/blue duck, $800,000-$1.3 million on the kākāpō, $547,880 on the takahē, $300,000 on the Māui dolphin and $16,396 on the Canterbury knobbed weevil.
A range of conservation programmes has been established, supported by commercial partners, aiming to build sustainable wild populations, increase breeding and create habitats.
DOC says these programmes have had a big impact on the species' populations over the last five years.
The takahē population was at 445 in the most recent count in September 2020 - a 45 per cent increase from 306 in 2015.
But DOC prefers to focus on the breeding pair numbers as it gives a better idea of the overall population health - there are currently 141 takahē up from 91 in 2015.
DOC Senior Ranger Glen Greaves told the Herald the ultimate goal of the Takahē Recovery Programme (TRP), supported by Fulton Hogan, is to return them to the wild.
Previously, it was about saving the species from extinction.
There are currently 20 sites around the country that hold takahē:
• Recovery (wild) sites at Kahurangi National Park and Murchison Mountains.
• Breeding sanctuary sites - the most productive and safest sites holding the most genetically valuable birds. locations include the Burwood Takahē Centre, Tiritiri Matangi and Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
• Sanctuary sites - low management safe sites holding birds of lower genetic value.
• Advocacy sites (Auckland Zoo) - the site is used solely for educational and awareness purposes.
Greaves said over the past five years, takahē have become less endangered, demonstrated by the bird dropping down two places on the New Zealand threat classification list from "Critically Endangered" to 'Nationally Vulnerable".
He said takahē security was still entirely dependent on intensively managed secure sites,
"None of which (other than Burwood) can be considered to be the natural habitat of the takahē, or sustainable in their own right due to their small size and required investment.
"Stepping back from intensive management would see the rapid decline and functional extinction (no longer viable or recoverable) within a few decades due to inbreeding and the current need for our wild populations to be supplemented with further takahē."
There are approximately 3000 of the blue-coloured waterfowl currently in the country.
Whio are one of our rarest birds and only found in New Zealand - you may recognise it on the $10 note.
The number of whio breeding pairs that are protected increased by 151 per cent between 2011 and 2020.
There are around 640 protected pairs of whio on the North Island, and just under 700 protected pairs at South Island recovery sites which are protected with trapping.
DOC Whio Recovery Group Leader Andrew Glaser said they have spent the last 10 years working with Genesis Energy to bring the bird back from the brink of extinction.
"They were once widespread throughout New Zealand. Today they are limited to the less modified catchments of the Urewera, East Cape and central areas of North Island; and along the West Coast of South Island from Nelson to Fiordland."
The objective of the partnership is to continue growing the national whio population so it is no longer classified as threatened.
Over the past 10 years, more than 5000 traps have been installed around the country to protect whio from predators such as stoats.
The Whio Forever programme ensures key breeding sites around the country are protected, but other populations are patchy and isolated.
"The birds have a low reproductive success rate, and there are more males than females which are vulnerable to predation while sitting on nests."
The total national population is continuing to decline in unmanaged sites, he said.
There are currently 204 kākāpō in New Zealand - a 67 per cent increase from 122 in 2016.
A total of 34 chicks fledged from the 2016 breeding season, increasing the population to over 150 individuals for the first time since the Kākāpō Recovery Programme began. The birds' breed every two to four years.
All of the birds are monitored with a radio transmitter so DOC knows the exact number in the population.
Unlike takahe, using the term breeding pairs for kākāpō is not appropriate as they do not form pairs, and one male can mate with many females, DOC senior ranger Dr Jodie Crane said.
"The kākāpō population has grown substantially over the last five years. Significant breeding seasons in 2016 and 2019 saw 34 and 72 chicks fledge respectively.
"The population hit a peak of 213 birds in September 2019, and has since dropped to 204. This is normal, as it is expected to lose a small number of individuals between breeding events."
The Kākāpō Recovery programme has been supported by Meridian since 2016.
The exact amount spent on the programme each year is dependent on whether there is breeding, and the scale of the breeding season.
Kākāpō conservation includes:
• Breeding management – transfers (genetic management), supplementary feeding, assisted breeding (artificial insemination), artificial incubation, hand rearing, nest management.
• Phenology monitoring – rimu and other key masting tree species.
• Annual replacement of radio transmitters.
• Research – GPS tracking, genomics, nutrition, cloacitis, aspergillosis, fertility, etc.
• Technology development – remote monitoring, database, smart eggs etc.
• Disease management – health checks, vaccinations, monitoring.
• Identifying new sites suitable for kākāpō – current sites are at capacity.
• Advocacy – raising awareness of kākāpō conservation.
DOC's most recent abundance estimate is from 2016 with approximately 63 dolphins over the age of 1 year.
A new estimate is due to be completed by the end of this year.
DOC technical adviser marine, Kristina Hillock, said the Government manages human-caused threats to the dolphins using the Hector's and Māui Dolphin Threat Management Plan (TMP).
When asked if the dolphin is less extinct now than it was five years ago, Hillock said it is a very short time span for the slow-breeding animals.
The dolphins only produce one calf every two to three years.
"The abundance estimate due to be completed this year will be the third time we have used this specific method to estimate the number of dolphins, which means we may be able to infer a trend in abundance over the past 15 years."
The TMP was reviewed and updated in 2019-20 which resulted in significant additional protection measures including closures to set-net and trawl fisheries, extensions to marine mammal sanctuaries as well as seabed mining and seismic surveying prohibitions within those areas.
DOC is currently in the implementation phase of the updated TMP which includes developing engagement plans and implementing research strategies.
Canterbury knobbled weevil
The beetle was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 2004 and is one of the most critically endangered insects in New Zealand.
The population of the weevil is difficult to determine due to it being incredibly hard to find.
The species is only known to occur in the Burkes Pass Scenic Reserve and since 2013 no more than eight individuals have been found each monitoring season.
Only two have been found this year.
"Until we develop better methods to find them it's difficult to determine how their population is trending and how effective management is," DOC science adviser Threatened species, Tara Murray said.
Since 2009, when the most intensive monitoring was undertaken, weevil detections have declined and in the last five years numbers found have ranged from zero to three, she said.
"How much this reflects a true decline is hard to tell because of the difficultly of detecting the weevil.
"We also don't know how their population naturally varies in response to things like mast seeding by their host plant. However, the small number of weevils found is extremely concerning."
$16,396 was spent over the past year on monitoring the species, weed and pest cont.
An additional $48,000 is being invested in a multi-year research programme into captive rearing using a surrogate species.
The research aims to develop a captive rearing method so that when Canterbury knobbled weevils are detected, they can be brought into captivity to increase numbers.
"This is necessary if we want to establish new populations in safer locations. We also need to be confident we can hold individuals in captivity to develop and test more effective monitoring methods."
Historically, the weevil was found throughout the Canterbury lowlands with the northernmost sighting near Oxford, and the southernmost near Waimate.