Many native species – including birds, bats, reptiles and insects – live in planted exotic forests. Forest owners certified by the Forest Stewardship Council actively protect these species by controlling possums, stoats and other predators.
“When we became aware that kiwi were living and migrating through our plantation, we were faced with the responsibility of looking after them while operating a working forest,” says Steve Couper of Ernslaw One, the owner of Whangapoua Forest.
In 2007, with advice from environmental consultant Dr John McLennan, Ernslaw created a safe haven within the forest for kiwi and other native species where predators would be intensively controlled. For the last five years, this control work has been carried out by a local contractor.
“But while we know we have been successfully controlling predators, we still know very little about the kiwi themselves. Is their population growing? How, if at all, are they are affected by forest operations?” Mr Couper asks.
“Hence the decision to put kiwi monitoring into the hands of the Project Kiwi Trust and to appoint the Trust’s contractors to carry out the predator control work after a well-subscribed tender process.”
The Trust was the country’s first community-led kiwi conservation project. Established on the Kuaotunu Peninsula, near Whangapoua, the Trust pioneered predator control strategies, captive-rearing strategies including Operation Nest Egg, kiwi tracking and predator-proof fencing. Its experience is now being applied by numerous community wildlife protection initiatives around the country.
Project Kiwi Trust Chairman Fraser Lampen says, “the Trust is thrilled to be appointed as the manager of the biodiversity enhancement programme in the Whangapoua forest. This new relationship with Ernslaw One helps ensure the long-term financial sustainability of our work, allowing us to achieve our primary goal of protecting and enhancing the Coromandel kiwi population.”
The new pest control contractors are Jono and Paula Williams who will work with Project Kiwi to manage the area.
Dr John McLennan, the original designer of the pest and predator control programme, is a trustee of Project Kiwi. His expertise and that of other Trust professionals will be used to build understanding of the behaviour of kiwi within the forest.
This information will help Ernslaw One and the Trust to mitigate negative effects, if any, forest operations have on kiwi that inhabit the forest. Already the Trust is helping Ernslaw to locate and protect birds that are nesting in areas scheduled for harvest.
“The Trust recently carried out a kiwi call count survey in the predator control area. This provides a baseline to measure the success of Ernslaw One’s investment in pest and predator control in enhancing kiwi abundance over time,” Mr Couper says.
Whangapoua Forest covers 10,500 hectares. It includes 175 km of riparian (streamside) strips of native bush and more than 2000 ha in wildlife refuges and corridors. About 7500 hectares are in radiata pine production forest that is in a constant 30-year cycle of planting, growth and harvest.
Plantation forests can provide valuable habitat for some threatened and endangered species and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in a landscape that is dominated by pastoral agriculture. As well as providing habitat in their own right, plantations play particularly important roles in buffering native forest remnants and in enhancing connectivity between areas of native ecosystems, including patches of primary forests, riparian strips, and amenity plantings
The 1430 hectare area safe haven within Ernslaw One’s Whangapoua Forest includes mature pines that are being progressively harvested, as well as significant areas of native bush, mainly in strips alongside waterways. These form wildlife corridors and refuges within the block.