Just off the coast in the Harbour of the Greater Auckland area there are several islands. One of these, Tiriti Matangi has been set aside as an open sanctuary. This island is devoted to preserving native New Zealand flora and fauna. This is in reaction to actions taken by the Europeans when New Zealand was opened up. At the time, Islands were ideal locations for farming as they were readily accessible by boat, the primary and often only mode of transportation at the time. The islands and most of the arable areas of the country were therefore laid bare, completely deforested and made appropriate for cattle and sheep for grazing. In addition, rabbits were introduced as a food source and they reproduced out of control. To rectify this problem, stoats were introduced as a predator for the rabbits. Also, rats migrated to New Zealand via ships arriving from overseas. The total affect of these actions is that many species of animals, birds and flora became extinct or are on the brink.
In the 1970's the Island of Tiritiri Matangi was reforested with native plants. Volunteers planted hundreds of thousands plants. In addition rats and other preditors were erradicated and the island is now a sanctary forNew Zealand native birds, lizards and geckos which are close to extinction. We took a walking tour with a volunteer who is well acquainted with the species on the island.
We saw many birds in their natural habitat. There are no cages or enclosures. The Birds live completely fee with very little intervention by man. We saw may different birds including the Kokako, of which there are only 250 remaining in the world; the Tukahe also has only a few hundred remaininng, many in sanctuaries such as this Island; the stitchbird, the Tui and the Saddleback. There are other less endangered birds as well, the robin and the fantail to name but two. It was a remarkable experience. The path took us through a gully with huge trees which was one of the few areas on the island left untouched by the deforestation of the past. This gully was alive with bird song and birds swooping about. It was so unusual and unparelled as a woodland experience for me.
At the end we were treated with a glimpse of the extremely rare Kokao which was perched on a bird bath in a secluded spot on the return to the boat which had brought us originally. Conincidentally the trip took us past the headland we had walked around the previous day, so we were able to see it from a variety of perspectives.