Wildlife

As the island became predator-free and indigenous forest habitat was slowly restored through extensive planting, animals began to return, either by self-introduction or from translocations initiated by FOMLI. Some of the island animal inhabitants are described below.

North Island brown kiwi
Kiwi were first introduced to the island in 2001 when adult birds Helga and Glen were released as a trial to see how kiwi would fare on the island. They did extremely well, and since 2003 the island has been operating as a ‘kiwi creche’ for Operation Nest Egg (ONE) and rescued kiwi chicks. A crèche site is a predator free environment where young kiwi chicks, whether hatched in the wild or artificially incubated, are released to develop without risk of predation. Once the chicks reach 1200g or more they are then capable of defending themselves from stoats, which are the primary predator of young kiwi chicks, and can be returned to the mainland. In February 2022, Matakohe celebrated its 200th kiwi graduation from the island crèche.
Click here to learn more about Operation Nest Egg.

Shore birds
The island is used by a variety of shorebirds for feeding, roosting, and breeding. The “Nationally vulnerable” New Zealand dotterel and “At Risk” variable oyster catchers nest on the island in spring and summer. Pied shag, little black shag, “Nationally vulnerable” reef heron, white faced heron, caspian terns and black-backed gulls are also commonly seen roosting and feeding on and around the island, while the royal spoonbill and migratory bar-tailed godwits are seasonal visitors.
(Pic of shorebirds here – will send pics from gmail if needed)

Forest & grassland birds
The regenerating forest and grasslands on Matakohe are home to an ever-increasing number and variety of birds. The banded rail and fernbird (now rare at mainland sites) self-introduced once the island became predator free and are now common and breed very successfully. New Zealand pipit, fantail, grey warblers, silvereyes, kingfisher, and Australasian harriers are also very common while morepork, pukeko, and shining cuckoo are more seasonal visitors. The larger birds such as the kukupa and tui are still only seasonal visitors, as food sources continue to develop on the island. Matakohe is also home to exotic bird species including the Californian quail and ring-necked pheasants.

Seabirds - Grey faced petrel
FOMLI is currently undergoing a long-term project to try and re-introduce grey faced petrel or “oi” back onto the island. Due to predation from introduced pests on the mainland, these birds are now only found on isolated headlands and offshore islands such as the Hen and Chicks. Oi have a remarkable homing instinct and can return back to the site they fledged during their breeding age, years after they emigrate to open ocean such as the South Pacific and Tasman Sea. Translocations need to occur prior to chicks fledging; however, this technique is relatively new, with no guarantee that the raised birds will successfully imprint on the new site. FOMLI has undertaken 7 translocations from 2004 – 2015 and saw 226 petrels successfully fledge from the island. In May 2010 the first of these fledged chicks returned, with several more individuals identified at the site since. No breeding has occurred yet, but there is hope that this might happen in the near future.
(Pic of grey-faced petrel here)

Lizards
New Zealand has a unique and diverse lizard fauna, accounting over 100 different species. However, they are an increasingly rare sight on the mainland, due to habitat loss and predation, and many New Zealanders are not even aware of their existence. Fortunately, islands like Matakohe now provide a refuge for some of these species. Eight lizards have been reintroduced to the island to join the native copper skink that survived on the island after it was deforested. Shore skinks were introduced from Mimiwhangata in 2007, followed by the secretive and nocturnal ornate skink which were released into forest habitat in 2008. The moko skink, common gecko, and pacific gecko were introduced in 2010, followed by the nocturnal forest gecko in 2011, the diurnal green gecko in 2012, and the ‘egg-laying’ Suter’s skink in 2014.
(Is this ok or would you prefer a more in-depth description of each species? Or would a website link suffice maybe? I think pictures would be cool to show viewers what type of lizards are present)

Invertebrates
Being free from rodent predators, the island is bursting with ‘creepy crawlies’ of all kinds. FOMLI has re-introduced stick insects, and tree weta which are doing particularly well and have spread all over the island. Once low in numbers, Giant centipede are now increasingly common in the absence of predators. In the future there are plans to introduce more invertebrates to create a complete ecosystem such as carnivorous snails, ground dwelling beetles that cycle nutrients on the forest floor, and large endemic herbivores such as weevils.

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