Kiwi Conservation experience for Sounds Visitors
Studying the Little Spotted Kiwi on Long Island
One of the Marlborough’s best known water taxi companies is offering its customers the chance to take part in conserving one of New Zealand’s most iconic bird species, the little spotted kiwi.
Cougar Line in Picton is currently supporting the research of Helen Taylor, a PhD student at
Victoria University in Wellington, who is investigating the reproductive success and genetics of little spotted kiwi on Long Island in Queen Charlotte Sound.
Helen has 10 birds on the island fitted with small radio tags, which not only indicate the location of the birds, but also give out data pulses of information about activity levels, nesting and hatching.
The data from the tags needs collecting once a week, but Helen is based in Wellington (where she studies another population of little spots) and so can't collect the data regularly herself; that's where Cougar Line comes in. Armed with a set of telemetry gear that allows them to pick up the signals from the birds' tags, skippers from Cougar Line pick up data for Helen on their way past Long Island as part of their daily trips round the Sounds.
It's not just the boat skippers who get in on the action – any passengers travelling with Cougar Line will get to hear the live data reads from little spotted kiwi and may even be offered the chance to help with data collection, allowing them to participate in important conservation research.
"Getting the data reads from the radio tags is crucial to monitoring the birds on Long," Helen explains. "These tags give me a huge amount of information that's important to my study and understanding more about the current status and future prospects of little spotted kiwi.
"Having Cougar Line on board allows me to monitor these birds on a relatively remote island simultaneously to studying a more accessible population at Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington. I couldn't do it without their help. It also gives people the rare chance to get first-hand experience of monitoring an iconic species, which is a fantastic opportunity."
Jill Evans from Cougar Line says that the partnership has been a great success: "Being involved in Helen's project allows us to offer visitors to the sounds a really unique opportunity and a chance to understand how important conservation is to people in New Zealand and Marlborough in particular.
"We've had a great response from passengers who are always really interested in the project and it's been exciting for us to get the latest updates from Helen on her work and see what the birds have been up to. We're all quite attached to them now."
Having completed one field season with Helen already, Cougar Line will continue to work with her for the whole of her second and final field season until February 2013.
Cougar Line have sailings leaving twice a day from their Picton waterfront offices. Kiwi monitoring is weather dependent, so ask about this before booking if you're interested.
To get the latest updates on Helen's work on Long Island, visit the Cougar Line kiwi blog at: http://www.queencharlottetrack.co.nz/kiwi-conservation.aspx or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CougarLine.
For bookings with Cougar Line, call 0800 50 40 90 or visit http://www.cougarline.co.nz/book/.