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Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says a new breeding aviary for the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt, is about to be built in the Mackenzie Basin near Twizel.

“DOC’s captive breeding programme is a key component in the bird’s recovery and the department had been working intensively hatching and rearing chicks in aviaries before releasing them in to the wild.  A snow storm two years ago destroyed one aviary and seriously damaged another,” Ms Barry says.

“In 1991 there were only 31 black stilt in the wild, now there are 106 but they are so vulnerable to being killed by feral cats, stoats and ferrets that their habitat is limited to a few open braided rivers in the heart of the Southern Alps.”

“The US-based conservation non-profit trust Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) has made a significant contribution to replace the previous 6-bay aviary with a larger 10-bay building so DOC can boost its captive breeding programme.”

“Even with the black stilt’s excellent breeding ability we will still need to protect their natural habitat from predators and it’s why Predator Free 2050, the Battle for our Birds and the War on Weeds are so important to these birds and all our threatened native species,” Ms Barry says.

“DOC wants the black stilt to completely recover from the edge of extinction and along with captive breeding it already runs a trapping programme over 20,000 hectares in the Tasman Valley.  Trapping predators has led to 49% of black stilts released in the Tasman surviving to adulthood in the past three years.”

The new aviary will be a cornerstone project for the long term protection of a unique part of New Zealand. Work on the rebuild is expected to begin in a few weeks and be completed by the end of November.

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