A new eco-sanctuary that has a 200m predator-proof fence has opened at Cape Farewell in Golden Bay in New Zealand. The Wharariki Ecosanctuary aims to restore a safe home for seabirds, rare native plants, giant snails and geckos.

The opening of the predator-free fence at Wharariki Ecosanctuary
The opening of the predator-free fence at Wharariki Ecosanctuary © Gerard Hindmarsh

Work began on the fence in September 2019, and now that it's completed, the aim is to keep predators like rats, mice, possums and stoats away while helping seabirds to re-establish breeding colonies. It’s hoped that the first birds will be translocated from offshore islands to the site later in 2020 or early 2021. "We have nest boxes in place, so will be shortly broadcasting the call of the fluttering shearwater," says Peter Butler, chair of HealthPost Nature Trust, which is driving the 12,000 hectare Wharariki Onetahua Restoration right to the tip of Farewell Spit. "We also have models - a bit like duck decoys - to try to attract passing birds."

Wharariki Ecosanctuary 2 .jpg
The Wharariki Ecosanctuary has now opened © Dave Winterburn/DOC

The sanctuary has been established in a partnership between local business HealthPost, Manawhenua ki Mōhua, a Māori umbrella organisation representing the interests of the Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa tribes, and the Department of Conservation. The Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, launched the eco-sanctuary and fence, and she also announced a $59,200 (€35,423) funding grant to support the habitat restoration of Wharariki stream and wetland and expand existing trap lines.

A worker in a construction vehicle at the predator-free fence
The predator-free fence has been completed © Don Grace

“Large seabird colonies on coastal cliffs were once common around mainland New Zealand before pests such as rats and stoats were introduced and land clearance destroyed the habitat they depended on," she says. "These combined pressures decimated seabird numbers. Significant populations of burrowing seabirds are now largely relegated to offshore islands. It’s projects like this that are crucial to providing safe havens for these threatened plants and wildlife on mainland New Zealand.”

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