The Greater Wellington Regional Council returned North Island robins to the spectacular Wainuiomata Mainland Island today, for the first time since the 1890s.
The native forest in the upper Wainuiomata-Orongorongo Valley was never logged or burnt and was the last mainland bastion in the Wellington region for robins before they were wiped out by rats and other introduced predators.
Sixty North Island robins were caught in Kāpiti Island yesterday and flown to the Wainuiomata Mainland Island by helicopter today for release. The birds were ceremonially handed over from Ngāti Toa Rangatira to Taranaki Whānui.
Greater Wellington Environmental Wellbeing Committee Chair Barbara Donaldson says it is fantastic to be returning North Island robins to part of their former range.
“The robins are an exciting addition to this majestic forest remnant. I’m sure they will feel quite at home among the 1000 year-old rimu and kahikatea.”
Greater Wellington manages the 7000 hectares of forest in the Wainuiomata-Orongorongo Valley as a water catchment area to harvest drinking water for the region’s four cities.
Inside the water catchment area is the 1200 hectare mainland island where Greater Wellington has been controlling rats, possums and stoats to very low numbers since 2005.
“The low numbers of mammal pests and our ongoing control will give the robins the best chance of survival,” says Mrs Donaldson.
“While some birds will inevitably fly out of the mainland island area, other robin re-introductions such as at Greater Wellington’s East Harbour Regional Park, show that a core population stay in the area and start breeding.”
It is hoped that these 60 North Island robins will be the beginning of a self-sustaining population in the hills behind Wainuiomata.