Welcoming and protecting the taiko: a person reflection
by John Ogden


The Trust has published four pieces on black petrel or taiko (Procellaria parkinsonii) in Environmental News since 2011 (Issues 27, 30, 32 and 33). They represent a lot of behind-the-scenes work by trustees Kate Waterhouse and Emma Cronin, and some up-hill foot-slogging by others including Sue Daly and Emmy Pratt. Our Acting Chair Emma Cronin has even visited fishing communities in Peru to talk to local fishermen and schools to share the remarkable journeys made by these birds amongst their children. So, through raising awareness and lobbying the industry and ministry officials, the Trust can take some credit and satisfaction from the “Welcome Back Taiko” event which occurred on Hirakimata in late November.

On Friday November 20th about fifty people climbed beyond Windy Canyon to the sound of the welcoming haere mai from Ngati Rehua drifting through the cloudy forest. This was a wonderful and moving experience, formally recognizing for the first time, the significance of the annual return of taiko (black petrel). These amazing sea-birds travel each year from the coastal waters of Peru, 10,000 kilometres, to their home nesting burrows on Hirakimata (Mt. Hobson). You can hear their calls at night on the island as adults return to and leave the colony to feed. One male bird, on burrow preparation duties, was hoisted out by Biz Bell’s skilled (and gloved!) hands and shown to everyone, while the pupils from Okiwi School sung their quiet Maori song of welcome.

The event was jointly organized by Southern Seabirds Solutions and Ngati Rehua Ngati Wai ki Aotea. The Tangata Whenua welcomed manuhiri representing the World-Wide Fund for Nature, Southern Seabirds, Hauraki Gulf Forum, Forest and Bird, the Local Board, Okiwi School, media representatives and others. Representatives from the Gulf fishing industry were also present and explained how they now educate fishing staff, and have measures in place to prevent black petrel mortality while fishing. Many of them have visited the nesting birds on the mountain. Biz Bell spoke about the lifecycle of Black Petrel, and Rebecca Gibson mentioned the Dept. of Conservation’s role in cat trapping on the mountain and in Okiwi basin. I briefly outlined The GBI Environmental Trust’s desire to see more active volunteer work on pest control for black petrel protection. The korero was concluded by Rodney Ngawaka stressing the significance of the mountain to Tangata Whenua and their desire to see increased petrel numbers and a functional food-chain supporting them.

All participants showed awareness of the importance of Aotea’s birds, reptiles and plants that make up the ecosystem of Hirakimata. The event emphasises the role of seabirds in our forests and the annual cycle of life in a forest, with trees flowering, birds arriving, nesting and leaving, at different times of year. Ceremonies such as this were once a feature of human awareness of our role in nature and it is good to see this return to Aotea.

This welcome to taiko was a very positive step – a milestone along the way to halting the decline of this bird, which is really Great Barrier’s most iconic species. Apart from a few on Hauturu / Little Barrier Island, it nests nowhere else – Aotea is its island. Sadly predation of chicks and breeding adults by feral cats continues – two adult birds are known to have been dragged from burrows and beheaded already this season (see photo). With a dry summer expected, allowing more feral cat access to the upper (usually wet) forest, the prospects for the birds are not good. The GBI Environmental Trust will initiate a trapping program and are seeking the cooperation and blessing of Ngati Rehua / Ngati Wai ki Aotea, management support from DOC, and help from volunteers. So let us know if you are fit and willing to help.


 • Nicola McDonald, Chairperson of the Ngati Rehua Ngati Wai ki Aotea Trust Board and Chris Howe, Conservation Director (NZ) for World Wildlife Fund cut the Taiko welcome cake.











Environmental News Issue 35 Summer 2016