The sound of toutouwai/North Island robin will once again be heard on Mt Taranaki after 36 birds were released on the Mounga on Sunday, after a 110-year absence.
The birds were translocated to Mt Taranaki from Pureora Forest Park, the first species to be returned by environmental project Taranaki Mounga, which was launched in 2016.
Taranaki Mounga chairman Jamie Tuuta says returning toutouwai to the Mounga is a symbolic milestone for the project.
"If you stand on Mt Taranaki now you do not hear a lot of birdsong. Returning toutouwai/robin, and the related predator control, is the projects' first step towards delivering major ecological gains for the park, bringing the mountain He Kawa Ora - Back to life," he says.
Taranaki and Te Atiawa iwi leaders have collaborated with Ngati Rereahu, the mana whenua of Pureora Forest Park, to bring the birds to Taranaki. Hoani Eriwata, of Te Atiawa, was part of the team who travelled to Pureora to capture the birds for translocation.
"It is very important to re-establish the bird life on the Mounga and it has been a real privilege and learning experience to be part of the translocation. I believe the Mounga is now the kaitiaki (guardian) who will look after the manu (birds) and if the toutouwai like their new environment they will stay," he says. Bringing toutouwai back to Mt Taranaki would not have been possible without intensive predator control in the release area.
To encourage the birds to stay in the protected zone local schools and businesses in Taranaki have been farming mealworms that will be fed to the birds to anchor them to the area.
Department of Conservation Deputy Director General of Operations Mike Slater says it is heartening to see the support this landscape scale project is receiving from the wider community and predator control will give the birds every chance of thriving in their new environment.
"An aerial 1080 operation has reduced predator numbers to very low levels in the release site and a network of self resetting auto lure A24 traps will continue to keep rat numbers down. There will be 2000 traps over 1000 ha which will be the largest deployment of Goodnature A24 rat traps in New Zealand.
The project is showing real commitment to a Predator Free New Zealand by 2050," he says.