From our Chair: Respecting our precious birdlife

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

I was disappointed to read yet again that some four-wheel drive enthusiasts are putting vulnerable birdlife at risk by taking their vehicles on to the braided rivers – in this case the Ashley River/Rakahuri.

A unique place for unique birdlife

Our braided rivers are a special place for many recreationists, but they are also a special place for some truly unique bird species, such as the wrybill and banded dotterel.

More to the point, these rivers are their habitat – the environment that they are uniquely adapted to and the place they depend on for their survival.

This habitat is especially important during the nesting season, and with the population of many of these birds species in a precarious place, it’s a crucial time for determining their future prospects.

This is why predator traps are placed around these sites. It’s also why we place signs and concrete blocks around these areas asking people to stay off the riverbeds, especially from September through to the end of January.

Banded Dotterel

Banded dotterel

Wrybill sitting on nest

Wrybill sitting on the nest

Showing respect

I’m not asking everyone in the community to become devout conservationists or passionate protectors of these vulnerable species; but I am asking that we at least respect their habitat, understand their delicate predicament, and do the decent thing by curbing certain activities at certain times.

Doing so doesn’t just show an understanding of the challenges faced by these bird species, it shows respect for all the work that goes on behind the scenes to give these birds a fighting chance – the building, installing and checking of predator traps; the river maintenance; and the field research and monitoring.

A careless or indifferent act by someone taking a 4WD or motorbike onto the riverbed and into these nesting colonies can cause tremendous harm to these bird colonies, seriously undermining their survival prospects; and is heart breaking to those who have dedicated painstaking time and energy (often voluntarily) into preserving these species.

That should be incentive enough to do the right thing, but extra incentive may be found in knowing that those found to have killed protected wildlife can receive hefty fines and even imprisonment.

A future focus

It’s no secret that many of the world’s species and ecosystems are on the precipice. There has been a lot written lately on what the future may look like for New Zealand’s flora and fauna if we continue our current path. The stories can make for grim reading.

Watch: This is how it ends extinction documentary.

It’s important, then, that we all try to grasp what this means for our country. In doing our bit, or at least understanding the plight of these precious species and supporting the efforts of those trying to help, we don’t just save our flora and fauna, we nurture some of most positive aspects of being human.