NZ Government ignores preeminent marine mammal scientists as call for action strengthens

A press release issued early last month from NABU International – Foundation for Nature (website) (Facebook) has spotlighted the high profile science groups calling for more from the NZ government than the proposed slight increase to the Maui’s Dolphin sanctuary, or set-net ban territory.

From NABU press release from Scoop … “In the past 15 months three international scientific bodies have repeatedly urged the New Zealand Government to protect the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins from extinction. But the calls by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) have fallen on deaf ears. Now the SMM, the preeminent body of international marine mammal scientists, issues its third appeal to the Government, stating that any further fishing-related deaths are unacceptable if Maui’s dolphins are to survive. The Society’s letter follows the announcement of proposals to slightly increase protection for Maui’s dolphins, and the death of a Maui’s dolphin on the 13th September [later shown to have died of old age in a necropsy/autopsy NZHerald ].”

Conservation Minister Nick Smith was quoted in the NZ Herald saying ‘… “The information would have been very gloomy in the event that it had been caused by human carelessness or some criminal act. That’s not the circumstances here.” …

… He says given the population of the Maui’s dolphins is so fragile, it’s important all fatalities are reported.

“When you’ve only got 55 of these left, they’re the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world, we need every possible piece of information we can get our hands on so we can try and understand the species.”

… Dr Smith says ensuring dead dolphins such as this one can be analysed by scientists is important, because it teaches us more about the species …’

So why is he ignoring calls from the foremost mammalogists in the world to extend the set net ban, to halt all Dolphin un-friendly fishing methods in the full Maui’s Dolphin territories to ensure the survival of this species and the opportunity to learn more about it?

Could it be that Nick Smith’s comment that dead dolphins can be analysed by scientists to teach us more about the species is pure cynicism, undermining his interest in “… every possible piece of information we can get our hands on so we can try and understand the species …”. What use is understanding the species if we let it die?

The information to hand is more than adequate to call for a watershed change in the way New Zealand regulates it’s fisheries, the calls of respected marine biologists and scientists, such as Dr Liz Slooten ( link ), are proof to that fact.

To quote Dr Slooten … “Occasional claims in the media that we’re “not sure” if fishing is the most serious impact or that “more research” is needed, come from individuals on the fringe. The fishing industry was consulted exhaustively on this issue, and had many opportunities to state those kinds of views. The consensus, based on decades of scientific research and fisheries monitoring (e.g. placing independent observers on fishing boats) is that fishing nets are the number one threat.

And a final quote from Labour’s Conservation Spokesperson Ruth Dyson ‘… “Nick Smith needs to take strong action now. He could support the future existence of the Maui’s dolphins with a complete ban on gill nets and trawling, as well as support the fishing industry with a financial transition package to move to sustainable fishing practices,” …’ (Voxy)

NABU International – Foundation for Nature has started a petition on

Please consider signing this and send Nick Smith your own letter too!

This petition will be delivered to:

Minister of Conservation, New Zealand

Hon. Nick Smith

SAVE MAUI’S DOLPHINS NOW! Marine Mammal Sanctuary Submission

The New Zealand government has asked for public comments on its proposals by 10th October ( . This process gives everyone the opportunity to have their say on how the last 50 Maui’s dolphins should be protected. By signing this petition you can make a formal submission right now and let New Zealand know that the world cares and won’t accept their willful extinction!

If you prefer you may follow the DOC’s submission guidelines below or at their website.

Also please note: If you made a submission to DOC between the hours of 5:41 pm Tuesday 17 September 2013 and 1:30 pm Wednesday 18 September 2013, there is a very strong possibility that we did not receive your submission due to technical issues. If your submission was affected by this, it would be greatly appreciated if you could re-send us your submission.

Submissions on the proposed variation close 4:00 pm Thursday 10 October 2013.

Female Brown Kiwi Survives Car Accident Unbroken!

Wildlife vet Karina Gonzalez Argandona and assistants worked on the accident surviving female brown kiwi at Wildbase Hospital to provide initial care, mainting fluids, providing pain relief and bandaging the affected leg.

Vet and Kiwi

Wildlife vet Karina Gonzalez Argandona with the Kiwi patient

Department of Conservation staff brought the kiwi to Wildbase Hospital, part of the Massey University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Palmerston North.

The hospital treats rare and endangered native birds, reptiles and mammals from all over New Zealand and  provides hands-on training in wildlife medicine for final-year Massey University veterinary students as a  respected teaching and research facility.

According to the Manawatu Standard’s article (click here) ‘… the kiwi had been hit by a car travelling at 70kmh near Whanganui, but sustained no serious injuries.

Wildlife vet Karina Gonzalez Argandona said a thorough examination, including a radiograph, found that she had no fractures.

“There was some severe bruising and soft tissue swelling and she has lost a patch of feathers.”

The kiwi was lucky to be alive and would stay at Wildbase Hospital for several more weeks until it had recovered.

“We need to make sure its feathers have re-grown because it will die of exposure if we release it before then.”

The bird is receiving antibiotics, pain relief and food while in care.’

A youtube video shows the kiwi being cared for at the animal centre. Kiwi Care at Wildbase Hospital

National Gvt protects Fishing Industry from Critically Endangered Dolphin

Maui’s dolphin critically endangered and underprotected by National Government.

International pressure from marine scientists and animal conservancy groups is washing against the sea-wall of the powerful fishing industry and it’s empiricle ally the National Government.

As reported by Matt Stewart, Weather, science and environment reporter for The Dominion Post ‘… [last] September, New Zealand was the only nation to vote against more protection for the critically endangered dolphins at the world’s largest conservation summit, in Korea … the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)…

[About] 576 members, including governments and NGOs, voted for the motion to ban gill and trawl nets out to the 100-metre depth contour of the dolphins’ habitat, on the North Island’s west coast between Dargaville and Whanganui.

In opposing the vote, New Zealand cited a lack of scientific evidence that the contour reflected the limit of the dolphins’ full range.

But the Department of Conservation wanted the Government to abstain from voting over increased protection for the dolphins to defend the country’s global reputation.

Emails between lead agencies the Ministry for Primary Industries and DOC, obtained under the Official Information Act, reveal DOC wanted the Government to abstain, while the ministry pushed for a “no” vote.

“In my opinion, abstaining carries less reputational risk for New Zealand,” DOC senior marine adviser Tara Ross- Watt wrote in an email to ministry inshore fisheries manager Andrew Doube … ‘

However, Matt Stewart points out … ‘the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee was told last month [that u]nless much of the dolphins’ swimming grounds, including harbours, is protected against gill netting and trawling, the dolphins will shrink to 10 adult females within six years, the annual meeting of.

Without that level of protection, Maui’s would become “functionally extinct” in less than 20 years – functional extinction is defined as fewer than three breeding females.’

Meanwhile Scoop published a Press Release from NABU International – Foundation for Nature stating that ‘… the IWC scientists express “extreme concern about the survival of Maui’s dolphin(s)” and warn that the death of even one individual as a result of human interference will push Maui’s dolphins closer to extinction.

Rather than spending more time studying the situation, as envisaged by the Government, New Zealand should make the immediate implementation of management actions that eliminate further dolphin entanglements its highest priority. This includes the full closure of harmful fisheries within the dolphin’s range, together with the creation of generous buffer zones …’

Matt Stewart’s article reports the email correspondance between DOC and ministry inshore fisheries manager Andrew Doube as follows…

‘… “In our view it would be very difficult for a government department to do anything other than vote against motions that are contrary to government policy,” Mr Doube replied [to DOC senior marine adviser Tara Ross- Watt] …

… Ross-Watt had previously stated that the “unresolved nature” of the policy around the Threat Management Plan (TMP) for Maui’s dolphins, which has been under review since late last year, did not strike him as “being wholly contrary to policy”.

Leading up to the vote, New Zealand head of delegation to the IUCN Andrew Bignell sent an urgent email to Mr Doube and Mr Ross-Scott questioning his instructions from the Government to vote against the motion. “It is highly preferable for New Zealand to be able to support the motion, given the work we have done on dolphin conservation nationally and internationally,” Mr Bignell wrote. “At a minimum, I would wish to be able to abstain to preserve our reputation for dolphin work.”

WWF-New Zealand executive director Chris Howe said the correspondence showed clearly that senior DOC officials “were rightly concerned about New Zealand’s reputation if the Government voted against a motion to stop the extinction of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins. They expressed a clear preference on voting for the motion, or at the minimum, abstaining.”

He also questioned why the ministry had the final say on how the Government voted on the motion. “Why is MPI leading on decisions on Maui’s dolphins at international conservation meetings?

“The National-led Government needs to give some power back to DOC and recognise that saving our most precious species – including our Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins, and our . . . sea lions – is in the interest of all New Zealanders.”

In response to Mr Howe, ministry deputy director-general of resource management and programmes Scott Gallacher said it was responsible under the Fisheries Act for managing impacts of fishing on protected species.

“The IUCN motion explicitly referred to fishing measures. MPI was therefore going to be a contributor to the Government’s position. Ultimately, it was the New Zealand Government’s position to oppose the IUCN motion to ban gill and trawl nets out to the 100-metre contour,” Mr Gallacher said.

“New Zealand’s fisheries management is regarded as world leading, and the reason for this is that decisions are based on robust and sound scientific evidence. It is MPI’s assessment that banning fishing to 100 metres depth contour, as proposed in the IUCN motion, is not backed by strong scientific evidence for Maui’s dolphins.

“It would be inappropriate to close all fishing activity in the absence of strong scientific evidence.”

There were already extensive restrictions on fishing activity to help protect Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins, Mr Gallacher said …’

However the perception that government is playing with statistics in order to support economic development at the expense of marine diversity is picked up in the international press release from NABU:

‘… The latest statistics of the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) updated Red List of Endangered Species are alarming.  A third of 70,294 species which have been assessed are threatened with extinction.Almost 800 others are already extinct.

“You would hope that the nations of the world would do everything in their power to prevent the irreversible loss of these building blocks of biodiversity on which all our lives depend,” said Thomas Tennhardt, President of NABU International – Foundation for Nature. “But the New Zealand Government has been recalcitrant with regard to its responsibility to protect the rarest and smallest dolphin species of all.  Unless New Zealand rethinks its position immediately, Maui’s dolphins will become extinct within a matter of years.”

… NABU International ‘s Head of Conservation, Dr. Barbara Maas, attended the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to present a report, which detailed the serious conservation status of Maui’s dolphin’s and explained how the Government’s Threat Management Plan (TMP) contains no solution to the dolphins’ imminent demise.

“The TMP is woefully inadequate, riddled with inconsistencies, and falls short of what is required to prevent the dolphins’ extinction,” says Barbara Maas.  “It ignores the advice of experts and fails to provide any rationale for the management measures it proposes.  Range-wide protection is not included as a possible solution.”

“What’s striking is that not one sentence in the 209 page TMP is dedicated to what the conservation benefits of any of the measures the Government is proposing might be. In contrast, many dozens of pages are devoted to the economic impact on the fishing industry.”[My emphasis]

In light of an extensive history of research promoting higher protections across more than one political party’s tenure it appears the National government is indeed playing with the research, perhaps in keeping with John Key’s comments to Stephen Sackur interviewing him for BBC World News show, HARDtalk , when he stated that the views of researchers can be swaped; as academics are “… like lawyers, I can provide you another one who will give you a counter view…”

But this attitude is drawing more and more and more research based criticism from groups like NABU who are clealy not going away as evidenced below…

“In line with the position of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SSM), NABU International will continue to press for the immediate and comprehensive protection of the last Maui’s dolphins across their habitat.”

“We estimate that Maui’s dolphins will become extinct in less than 20 years. But this can easily be avoided if New Zealand acts now. Whether it will or not depends on whether New Zealand is prepared to free itself from the stranglehold of its fishing industry.”
“While the last Maui’s dolphins are struggling to survive, New Zealand is busy arguing against Japan’s whale hunt in Southern Ocean at the International Court of Justice in De Hague. It’s time to take a similarly principled stance with regard to its own “Hobbits of the Seas” back home.”

For our KIWIMAN webcomic page featuring more information on Maui’s dolphins please click

Please visit the full articles quoted here at : Dom Post, ‘Lack of evidence’ behind NZ vote against Maui’s aid

and Scoop, NABU press release NABU International: “Hobbit of the Seas” Can Be Saved

Maui’s Dolphin Comic Fact Sheet

This page was created before April 2008 and as such contains information that is no longer correct and needs to be updated :

The current estimated population of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin is 55.

The minister for Conservation is currentl Nick Smith in the National Party, his email is

Currently a trawling and set net ban stretches from Maunganui Bluff (north of Auckland) to Pariokariwa Point (north Taranaki), out to seven nautical miles from shore. Harbours along this stretch of coast do not have a set net ban. In June 2012 the New Zealand government announced an interim set net ban extension south around the Taranaki coast to Hawera and out to two nautical miles from shore.

Also the plight of Maui’s dolphins is now being talked about all over the world, thanks to international concern for this rarest of marine dolphin.

Maui's in danger

‘Wife-swapping’ Kiwi set free in park

‘Wife-swapping’ helps colony to thrive.

HELEN MURDOCH wrote this article for Nelson Mail (Last updated 08:30 15/05/2013) -Paraphrased below. Please click HERE for the full article.

- © Fairfax NZ News

… Friends of Flora … released … eight great spotted kiwi into [Kahurangi National Park's] Deep Creek catchment [after y]ears of work and planning to return a viable breeding kiwi [to the area].

Since 2010 the voluntary community group has released 32 great spotted kiwi into a 10,000 hectare area over which it maintains an extensive pest control scheme in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Bush and Beyond. A chick born from the dozen kiwi released by the group in 2010 continues to thrive. An older bird died last year from natural causes.

Chairman Peter Adams said this year’s two kiwi relocations cost around $60,000 – money which was raised through donations, grants and funds from the World Wildlife Fund.

The birds were released into pre-dug burrows which were kept closed until dusk when the kiwi were freed to survey their new territory under the cover of darkness.

Mr Adams said volunteers were [left] in the catchment [that] week tracking the birds’ movements. “They will settle down after a while and find their own territory. We try to capture them in established pairs but there is a bit of wife-swapping going on.”

The latest translocation at the weekend saw the eight kiwi captured from the Roaring Lion on the back of surveys highlighting vulnerable wild kiwi populations. A dozen kiwi were moved in March from similar wild populations and relocated into Gridiron Creek catchment, closer to the group’s existing monitored kiwi population.

The latest release into the Deep Creek catchment saw the birds located near to a population of wild kiwi in the Cobb Valley. Mr Adams said the hope was the two populations, which were within call of each other, would eventually unite and form a corridor between the two areas. Kiwi were seen and heard in the lower Cobb Valley in 2010 by the Friends of the Cobb which has been carrying out pest protection work there.

Mr Adams said while the birds’ shift had been successful the hard work of regular required monitoring was only just beginning. The group continued to raise money to cover the cost of monitoring the birds over the next two or more years …

Genetic weakness threatens rare kiwi

Little spotted kiwi faces huge genetic challenge

JODY O’CALLAGHAN wrote this article for the DOMINION POST (Last updated 15/05/2013) -Paraphrased below ; please visit HERE for the full article.

Photo credit FAIRFAX NZ

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: The little spotted kiwi's genetic background is its own enemy.

The little spotted kiwi population has such low genetic diversity [that under certain conditions] the whole population could be wiped out [by disease].

A Victoria University study released [15/05/2013] revealed that every one of the smallest kiwi species stems from just five birds who were moved to Kapiti Island in 1912 when fears of its extinction began.

Lead researcher Dr Kristina Ramstad said researchers, who conducted the study with the Department of Conservation, were shocked to find another gene pool moved from D’Urville Island to Long Island in the 1980s had not reproduced.

‘‘Those individuals from D’Urville didn’t leave any offspring as far as we can tell.’’

[The D'Urville loss] was unexpected [as the Island is considered to be a] predator-free environment.

‘‘We know now that wasn’t enough, they didn’t reproduce.’’

[Possible reasons] for the reproductive failure on D’Urville [include infertility and or menopausal females being moved to the Island, but these conjectures remain unconfirmed].

‘‘Every living little spotted kiwi, we now know from this study, originated from at most, five birds put on Kapiti in 1912.’’

There [are] now 1200 birds on the island, [however all little spotted kiwi on and off the Island originated] from the same founders.

‘‘If the right disease came along, it could kill them all. There’s no way to combat that.’’

[There are] no other populations available to integrate diverse genes, [meaning  the little spotted population is] ‘‘almost cloned’’ and [forced to mate] with siblings … [B]reeding between species [would introduce] even more risks to the species …

‘‘Even populations of species that we think are growing can still be experiencing threats to their long term persistence.’’ …

‘‘They’re not doomed to extinction, it’s just they have to be managed really carefully.’’

Dr Ramstad did not think it was a ‘‘hopeless story’’ since there was always the possibility there were other birds out there somewhere.

‘‘I still hold out hope somebody might spot a rare little spotted kiwi out there.’’

[This would add to the biodiversity of the Kapiti little spotted kiwi] population … who managed to flourish after escaping the threat of predators [and other threats] on the mainland…

‘‘We were very lucky to have them at all.’’ [Dr Kristina Ramstad said].



Kiwi call monitors needed in Puketi Forest

Puketi Forest Trust Call for Volunteers!!!!

Puketi Forest is an ancient kauri forest that along with the Omahuta Forest forms one of the largest contiguous tracts of native forest in Northland. The forest is home to North Island brown kiwi, kukupa (New Zealand pigeon) and pied tit though they face local extinction without intervention. Also Toutouwai (New Zealand robin) were returned to the forest by the trust in 2009 and 2010.   Find out more about Puketi Forest from the Puketi Forest Trust’s website HERE

Check out the trust’s Youtube vids HERE go to the volunteer page HERE

The Northern Advocate posted the article below on 20th May 2013

Puketi Forest is one of Northland’s prizes but unless people help out, the eerie call of the kiwi might cease to pierce the night time forest.

That call is one thing volunteers are needed to monitor, along with helping to control weeds, possums and stoats and take part in regular planting days.

Caring for the forest is a joint effort between Puketi Weedbusters, DoC and the Puketi Forest Trust, all of which are looking for volunteers to help with several projects.

“You can help your local forest, Puketi, come back to life,” says Dan O’Halloran, Bay of Islands Department of Conservation biodiversity threats ranger.

The Puketi Weedbusters carry out weed control work around the Puketi Forest Headquarters and further afield. The group normally meets one morning a month.

Over the winter months, the Weedbusters focus on replanting areas of the forest with natives. Planned planting days are June 4, July 2 and August 6.

Puketi Forest volunteers monitor kiwi numbers by listening out for them during the kiwi breeding season.

Listeners spend four nights over a three-week period at a designated site and record the time, direction the bird’s heard calling from, its distance from the listener and its sex.

New volunteers will be given training. The main kiwi listening period this year is from May 27 to June 16, with a back-up period from June 27 to July 16.

People in other parts of the Bay of Islands who want to help monitor kiwi numbers can contact: Russell and eastern Bay of Islands, Heather Lindauer (Russell Landcare Trust): ; Mahinepua/Radar Hill Landcare Trust, Mary Woodworth:; Kerikeri and environs, Greg Blunden (New Zealand Kiwi Foundation):

DoC also has a number of possum and stoat traplines in the Puketi/Omahuta Forest which interested volunteers could manage. Anyone interested can contact Dan O’Halloran, 09-407 0311 or email\


New research on calving rates increase fears for Maui’s dolphin

John Gibb reported on Sat, 11 May 2013 for the Otago Daily Times on ‘recent ”astonishing” research findings involving dolphins in Doubtful Sound [that] have increased University of Otago Prof Steve Dawson’s fears about the future of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin.

The Otago University research findings, involving a community of about 60 bottlenose dolphins based in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, had ”chilling” wider implications for the future of Maui’s dolphin, Prof Dawson said this week. This subspecies of Hector’s dolphins-the world’s most endangered dolphin subspecies- is found only off the North Island’s west coast…

…Prof Dawson [said] Bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound were among the world’s most thoroughly studied dolphins … Otago researchers had studied the success rates of 18 experienced bottlenose dolphin mothers there and found ”massive” differences: six were ”really good”, a similar number were ”in the middle” and another subgroup had ”very bad” outcomes.

The ”very good” mothers produced calves which were highly likely to survive long-term, and the most unsuccessful mothers had not produced a single calf which had survived, long-term, since about 2002.

The”chilling” implication was that in small populations, a small subgroup of mature female dolphins was likely to be playing a crucial role in maintaining the population.

And if even one of the key mothers was killed, the chances of maintaining the population was significantly reduced.

This study implied that Maui’s dolphins were likely to face an ”even more precarious” future than previously thought.

However, that dolphin could still be saved if appropriate action was taken, and it would be ”terrible” if it eventually became extinct, he said.

… Conservationists have urged greater restrictions on gill netting to prevent dolphins from being killed in the nets, but fishers say too many restrictions could badly damage the fishing industry…

55 adult Maui’s dolphins have survived, including fewer than 20 females of breeding age.’

Full Article at OTD

Universtiy studies remote Kiwi monitoring

Fuseworks Media posted the following article on Thursday, 9 May, 2013 – 07:00 to Voxy reporting that University of Canterbury students have investigated the most suitable frequencies for radio propagation in forest and the best method of transmission, assisting the post-cuts wave of threat detection in the fight to save Kiwi and other endangered NZ native birds. Article paraphrased below, please visit Voxy for full article.

UC sets up wireless monitoring to protect threatened species

… The UC Wireless Research Centre has been commissioned by Landcare Research to investigate methods for remotely monitoring traps and other detection devices such as trail cameras to avoid field workers having to visit the traps. The UC work is part of the Strategic Technologies for Pest Control project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. …

… Nine out of 10 North Island brown kiwi chicks born in the wild will die before they are one year old. Stoats, rats, cats and possums exact a terrible toll on threatened species and many native bird species are fighting for survival against introduced predators.

The Department of Conservation maintains a network of over 180,000 traps and spends more than $5 million a year on stoat and rat trapping. Being able to check traps remotely provides significant cost savings.

… Checking traps regularly takes a lot of time and cost. …

… In this project, there were two major technical issues to overcome. One being that radio waves travel through foliage badly and secondly the trap monitors needed to be very low energy to enable a long operational life.One project focused on the monitoring of traps, which simply informs the field worker of the status of each trap. The second project looked at transmitting images of wildlife from infra-red sensing trail cameras. Each system was designed to send the information back to a central collection point that would be easily accessed remotely by the field worker.

The students investigated the most suitable frequencies for radio propagation in forest and the best method of transmission. The final proposed systems were shown to give a cost saving of over 10 percent in accessible forest and even greater savings in more remote areas,’’ Barnsdale says.

The projects were completed by masters students Thomas Harding and Richard Jeffcote and supervised by Barnsdale and Dr Graeme Woodward, with support from Bruce Warburton of Landcare Research.

Also at Kiwiman Comics