Changing Planet

Tolaga Bay Islands

Last weekend I visited Uawa (Tolaga Bay) and was lucky enough to visit some of the offshore islands off the coast and survey them. A small group of us were supported by the local surf life-saving club who capably took us out in their IRBs to visit Motueka and Pourewa Islands. On each island we surveyed the vegetation and recorded bird species, while setting traps and monitoring devices for rodents. This work formed part of a larger bioblitz with the local iwi Te Aitanga A Hauiti, in association with the Allan Wilson Centre who are helping develop the Uawanui restoration project.

Tolaga Bay surf life savers (Photo: Mark Coote)

On Motueka Island the sound of hundreds of roosting sparrows could already be heard from offshore, indicative of a probable mammal-free status which we later confirmed. The tiny island was home to a disproportionate number of shore and seabirds (gulls, oystercatchers, penguins) which all benefit from the pest-free status and lack of human disturbance. On larger Pourewa Island we found lush native forest from the island summit to the sea-shore, and heard land bird calls echoing across the forest throughout the day. However, we also confirmed the presence of ship rats and mice which could easily make the short swim from the adjacent mainland. Overall the weekend provided a wonderful opportunity to visit and learn more about these island ‘taonga’ (treasures) and work with the local community and indigenous people to discuss exciting future opportunities for restoring their landscape.

Setting rat traps on Motueka Island
Setting rat traps on Motueka Island (Photo: Mark Coote)
Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.

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