Help save Caspian terns from themselves (and us)
The Department of Conservation is asking members of the public to help Onoke Spit’s threatened Caspian terns to help
themselves this summer.
This week the department placed signs and temporary markers at the terns’ breeding area, so people can avoid damaging
the nests by detouring around the site. The protective barrier is marked with reflective tape to make it visible at
night as fishers often visit the spit during the hours of darkness.
The protected birds lay their eggs on a gravel bank near the eastern end of the Spit, not realising that they are
placing their offspring in danger of being run over by vehicles used to access the popular fishing spot. DOC is
concerned that the nests will be harmed by visitors to the spit who are unaware of their presence.
“Terns can be fickle creatures and even brief disturbances by people on foot can cause them to abandon the whole
colony,” says DOC biodiversity Programme Manager Phil Brady,
“By placing a barrier around the areas, people can be aware of their presence and quickly move away from the site”
Caspian terns are common worldwide, but with a national population of around 3,000 birds, it is uncommon in New Zealand,
and the Onoke Spit colony is a significant one for the lower North Island. Threats to the vulnerable terns’ survival
include disturbance from humans or stock, predation by introduced mammals and habitat loss or alteration.
Meanwhile, DOC has enlisted the support of groups with an interest in the area in its bid to raise awareness of the
ecological importance of Onoke Spit.
“We’ve approached the local hapu, fishing clubs, four-wheel drive and motorcycle clubs, environmental groups and local
residents and they are keen to help protect the terns, says Wairarapa Area Manager Chris Lester.
“The spit is a popular place for a range of interest groups, and it’s these people who can really make a difference to
the future of all the native wildlife there”.