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The kakapo -- unsaveable?
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amyasleighOffline
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PostPosted: 07-05-2011 07:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mythopoeika wrote:

Perhaps the only way to stop the decline is to move a lot of them to an island with no predators and then let them get on with it.

My impression is that this is not far off what's now being done: the 120 kakapos in existence, are on small predator-free islands, and in receipt of a lot of human help and intervention. Seemingly you're suggesting a sort of "kill-or-cure" version of this, removing the help and intervention?
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MythopoeikaOffline
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PostPosted: 07-05-2011 12:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we should give them the ideal conditions to continue surviving, and we need to remove all human threats as well.
If we do this and they still die out as a species, then there is really not a lot more that we can (or should) do.
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oldroverOffline
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PostPosted: 07-05-2011 14:57    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I think we should give them the ideal conditions to continue surviving, and we need to remove all human threats as well.
If we do this and they still die out as a species, then there is really not a lot more that we can (or should) do.


The thing is once you’ve taken the steps you suggest, why stop. The point is they’re probably not a viable species anymore, most likely as a result of our actions. So if we do decide to preserve them by placing them in an artificially regulated environment, surely then we accept all future responsibility for them.
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lordmongroveOffline
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PostPosted: 22-05-2011 14:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

Animals have come back from much lower numbers than 120. The southern white rhino was once down to 15 individuals in a remote valley in Natal. Now there are something like 14,000 of them.
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amyasleighOffline
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PostPosted: 22-05-2011 14:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

The biggest problem for the kakapo does seem to be, mammalian predators introduced by humans, to NZ. "Hindsight is 20/20", and all that -- and "in a perfect world"... Kakapos' only hope for future that I can see: offshore islands kept mammal-free, by human intervention. May it be so !
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amyasleighOffline
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PostPosted: 09-10-2013 20:54    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bumping the kakapo thread which I started, because of having recently read a very interesting book, “Rat Island” by William Stolzenburg, published 2011.

The book is devoted to chronicling efforts by conservationists in recent decades, on islands spanning a huge swathe basically of the Pacific Ocean, from New Zealand to the Aleutians, to rid those islands of mammalian species introduced by human agency, which have been detrimental – often to the point of exterminating, or threatening extinction -- to the assorted rare species endemic to those islands. The “villains” of the piece come across as (1) the rat, in its various kinds; (2) the cat -- plus a varied supporting cast.

I found the book – though written in irritating American tabloidese – highly informative, and fascinating. It points up the paradox of how very many (seldom in themselves immensely numerous) different species of above all, birds – also reptiles and insects – evolved on oceanic islands, their forbears often having wound up going there in search of refuge from mammalian predators; finding that refuge; and evolving, in the relative scarcity of predators to flee, to lose the power of (highly energy-and-nutrition-demanding) flight. Fine, until man came on the scene, bringing mammals with him – sometimes deliberately, sometimes by accident. Flightless birds became extremely easy prey for unfamiliar four-legged predators, and for humans themselves. A very great proportion of the species exterminated over the past few centuries, have been (hitherto)-isolated-island ones – New Zealand by far the biggest-in-physical-scale, for this scenario.

In the course of recounting this mostly sad story (going on to modern-day, introduced-predator-eliminating campaigns), the author recounts the story of the decline, and hairsbreadth rescue – so far -- of New Zealand’s kakapo, in (highly interesting) greater detail than I had previously seen. He tells, concerning the nineteenth century, of a particularly amazing piece of stupidity. I had been aware before reading the book, that European stoats and weasels had been introduced to New Zealand, and had thus become a threat to native wildlife, including the kakapo (both killing the birds, and taking their eggs). Had imagined that this introduction had been the work of foolish private individuals just wishing to make NZ feel more like home.

Stolzenburg tells that it was otherwise. In the 1860s, private folks introduced the rabbit to NZ, “as a game animal and for fun”. To quote the author, “the rabbits did what rabbits do” – over the next couple of decades, they multiplied and multiplied, and came to pose a grave threat to grazing for sheep. In the early 1880s, NZ’s governing authorities undertook a programme of introducing European mustelids – weasels, stoats, polecat / ferrets – thinking that they would cut down the rabbit population. Surprise, surprise – the mustelids found easier prey, the largely flightless native birds and their eggs: there ensued, from then to now, a holocaust of same at the hands of the mustelids. As I mentioned in my last post, “hindsight is 20/20”; nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine that at the time nobody saw, and brought to the notice of those in charge, that mass-importation of mustelids was not a good idea, and liable to miss the designated target.

The book gives grounds for some hope, re eradication of predatory mammals from islands which can then become once more, havens for rare species (greatest dream in this line, and unrealised so far, is extermination of rats on the 100-square-mile Kiska Island in the Aleutians, thus giving the chance to burgeon, the island’s still large population of auklets which nest there). However; reading it has to a considerable extent ruined for me – even trying to make allowances for bad-journalistic hyperbole – New Zealand. Will never again be able to think of NZ as a relatively-unharmed-by-mankind Eden. So many mentions in the book, of the New Zealand bush being mostly silent and deprived of bird-sounds, with the alien predators having moved in and made a clean sweep. It’s made clear that all this began some seven or eight hundred years ago, when the Maoris showed up and exterminated the moas within a hundred years or so – in a fair few respects, this book (for all its essentially “upbeat” tone) is for me what is sometimes described as a “wrist-slitter”.
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Anome_Offline
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PostPosted: 10-10-2013 08:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

A similar sort of thing happened here. We got rabbits, and foxes, primarily for game, and they are now responsible for a lot of ecological damage, including killing or competing with native species.
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amyasleighOffline
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PostPosted: 10-01-2014 06:48    Post subject: Reply with quote

A further “bump” to this thread, originally initiated by me – concerning yet another book recently acquired, and having interesting “cross-overs” with William Stolzenburg’s book “Rat Island”, about which I posted here a few months ago.

Newly-got book – published 2013 – is “Lost Animals – Extinction and the Photographic Record” by Errol Fuller. A fair-sized volume, comprising many photographic illustrations, plus in-the-main informative text: covers 21 bird, and 7 mammal (the latter including terrestrial, aquatic, and bat) species which are now adjudged – or very strongly suspected – to be extinct. (Most of the world’s truly highly exciting creatures, unfortunately perished before the dawn of the era of photography.) The book features such well-known favourites as the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet, Eskimo curlew, ivory-billed woodpecker, thylacine, and Yangtze dolphin; also assorted birds which I for one, had never before heard of – some of same, island species which lasted until the late 20th century before seemingly “going under”. Several of these last, are Hawaiian bird species – over the centuries, Hawaii’s native avifauna seems to have, for multiple reasons, taken a terrible pasting.

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand has some prominence in the book. A connection with Stolzenburg’s “Rat Island”, in respect of the Big South Cape Island tragedy of the 1960s. Stolzenburg tells, heartbreakingly, of this event. The small island of that name – off Stewart Island, at the southern tip of NZ – a nature reserve, was until fifty years ago, a near-pristine bit of NZ’s pre-human-encroachment environment. Among many other creatures, the island was effectively the very last refuge for four species: the bush wren, the Stewart Island snipe, the songbird called the South Island saddleback, and the greater short-tailed bat. The island was sporadically visited by local folk, with a special dispensation to take shearwaters which breed there in great numbers; presumably accidentally in the course of such visits, rats got ashore on the island. In 1964 the island’s rat population effectively exploded, wreaking havoc among the native wildlife. Conservation workers on the spot, begged to be allowed to take immediate action to, as far as possible, drastically curb the rats; and / or to do what might be done to try to save the almost-extinct threatened species. Those with the authority to grant this, far away in the capital, vacillated and delayed and pondered, while the slaughter continued and intensified.

After frustrating months, action was finally authorised. The greater short-tailed bat seemed effectively to have been wiped out from the island (there have been some indications that the species may actually have lasted longer). The conservationists captured the remaining findable specimens of the three all-but-extinct bird species, with view relocation and / or survival in captivity. Short version: this succeeded with the South Island saddleback, but not with the wren or the snipe: both species reckoned extinct within a very few years from 1964. Fuller’s book has sections on the bush wren, and the greater short-tailed bat, telling of the 1964 disaster which would seem to have doomed both species: the “bat” section includes the only known photo of a member of the species, taken in 1965.

Fascinating material; but, once again, learning of such doings has been very detrimental to any notions I might once have entertained, of New Zealand as an earthly paradise.
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