Birds needing trees, trees needing birds focus of New Zealand forest project | WWF

Birds needing trees, trees needing birds focus of New Zealand forest project

Posted on
18 February 2011
Wellington, New Zealand: The mutual dependence of a colorful pigeon and some of New Zealand’s iconic trees is at the centre of a landmark Year of the Forests project in that country.

A project to help the Kereru bird and native forests thrive once more throughout New Zealand’s Wellington region has received new funding from the Nikau Foundation with support from the Willscott Endowment Fund, and WWF-New Zealand in partnership with the Tindall Foundation.

"Kereru are beautiful birds, and their recovery is critical to the survival of New Zealand's unique and special forests," said Marc Slade, Terrestrial Programme Manager at WWF-New Zealand. "Kereru are one of the only surviving mainland native species able to swallow the fruit of some key forest trees, including miro, tawa, rimu and matai. Some of these seeds need to pass through the gut of a bird to germinate, meaning the health of the forests is absolutely dependent on Kereru.

The United Nations has designated 2011 as the International Year of the Forests

Throughout this year, WWF will be running a Living Forests Campaign that will combine cutting edge science, new perspectives from partners and decades of on-the-ground experience to help address the challenge of saving the world's forests.

"In the International Year of the Forests, WWF is getting behind this project because Kereru are the champions of New Zealand forest recovery, they're a keystone species and need looking after," Slade said.

Kick-starting the project

The organisations will invest $10,000 in the Kereru Discovery Project to kick-start a new phase of an existing conservation project that aims to increase populations of the native birds from Kapiti Island through to the Wairarapa. In turn, the growing numbers of Kereru will play a critical role in restoring native forest in the region. Today Kereru numbers are a tiny fraction of what they once were as a result of habitat loss and an associated lack of food, and introduced predators such as possums, ferrets and stoats.

The new phase of the project will launch later this year, and will involve local communities in helping Kereru thrive, calling on people to plant native trees which are food sources for the birds in their backyards, and to volunteer for pest control schemes.

In and around Wellington, New Zealand 98 % of the region was once cloaked in forest - of which only 28 % survives today.

"As a charitable trust that manages donors' money so that their one gift will give in perpetuity, the focus of Nikau Foundation is the Wellington region. We are delighted to be able to contribute, on behalf of our donor the Willscott Fund, to the recovery of Kereru numbers and the ongoing restoration of native forests in our region," said Adrienne Bushell, Nikau Foundation Marketing Manager.

Completing the circle of positive effects, the project's efforts to save native forest will help other native birds flourish, Slade said: "By looking after Kereru we save our forests, and by saving our forests we're protecting the habitat of other native species. It's an example of how everything connects in a cycle of life, and how conservation of species has flow on effects to benefit whole ecosystems," he said.
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