By ROBYN BRISTOW
Dummy eggs and aviaries are being crafted by Kaiapoi Menz Shed personnel for the Department of Conservation (DOC) in a partnership designed to help save the Orange-fronted parakeet from extinction and widen its genetic pool.
There are only a few hundred of New Zealand’s rarest parakeet left with the last remaining populations based in a North Canterbury valley along the south branch of the Hurunui River and in two valleys in Arthurs Pass.
There are plans by the Menz Shed to add carry and feed boxes to the range to ensure the parakeet gets a good chance at survival and increasing their numbers.
Nicola Toki, DOC’s Threatened Species Ambassador, from Waipara, says having the Menz Shed on board is great because it ensured DOC staff could use their time to trap and look after species in other ways.
“We have a huge programme at the moment upgrading traps and trapping predators to make sure we protect the parakeet. Building aviaries takes time away from us trapping and looking after the birds,” she says.
Menz Shed volunteers had huge engineering, carpentry and wood working skills that they used to craft the aviaries and dummy eggs, two enterprises that were vital in helping to provide genetic variation in parakeets by taking captive birds into the wild.
“The problem with low numbers is everyone is too related. It makes it easier for us once we have located nests to provide the best outcome for the birds by increasing genetic variation.”
She says the aviaries ensure the parakeet that are bred in captivity can be taken to a site in the wild and spend a few days in the aviary acclimatising before being released.
The dummy eggs, which were lathed by one of the volunteers, were a work of art and were used to put into nests that were found when DOC staff took eggs back to captivity to hatch and for the release of birds later.
“The dummy eggs are pretty fantastic. They are made on a lathe,” says Nicola.
The Orange-fronted parakeet lives mainly in holes in Red Beech and in one year alone 85 were wiped out of one population by stoats and rats.
Nicola says two mastings of beech seeds in two years had increased the food supply for predators and made them more prolific and a greater danger to the parakeet.
Nicola’s appointment by the Minister of Environment Maggie Barry 18 months ago, is to help raise the profile and awareness of threatened species such as the Orange-front parakeet.