23 Feb 2021
Heritage LIVE Replay: The Chatham Islands
Heritage LIVE Hosts: Aaron Russ & Isaac Wilson
If you missed the live event, which was broadcasted on Facebook, you can enjoy the replay above.
Heritage Expeditions has a long history with and personal connection to the remote archipelago of the Chatham Islands. Back in the 1970s, company founder Rodney Russ worked here and was involved in some of the early conservation work with the Black Robin. Aside from fond memories of the people, Rodney can pin his name to a handful of significant saves in bird conservation history, one being part of a team in the mid-1970s which rescued the Black Robin from "crunch point." There were just seven birds, including one breeding female – “Old Blue,” the matriarch of most Black Robins alive today! Restricted to a tiny population on Little Mangere Island, the remaining seven birds were translocated to Mangere Island, where chicks were fostered out to other species, in an effort to increase productivity, which proved very successful! There are now small but viable populations on Mangere and Rangatira Island nature reserves.
Our annual signature voyage, Birding Down Under: Subantarctic and Chatham Islands, visits South East Island, one of the world’s greatest nature reserves, and the Mangere Islands from where the endemic Black Robin was rescued. And our brand new 21 March 2021 expedition, Chatham Islands: New Zealand's Easternmost Islands, will offer a more immersive experience of these islands.
The most famous endemic species on the islands are the Chatham Island Taiko (or the Magenta Petrel), one of the world’s rarest seabirds with a population estimated at less than 200 which was previously thought to be extinct, and the Black Robin (less than 300), which came perilously close to extinction before being saved through conservation efforts. The Taiko was believed to be extinct for almost a century, until its rediscovery by David Crockett in 1978. Nearly ten years later, in 1987, the first Taiko burrow was discovered in southern Chatham Island. Other endemic species to the Chatham Islands include the Chatham Island Oystercatcher, Albatross, Pigeon and Shag, New Zealand Shore Plover and Forbes’/Chatham Parakeet.
The Chatham Islands were the last islands in the Pacific to be settled by people, but they are the first inhabited landmass on the planet to be greeted by the morning sun each day. The history of these islands and their rich natural history is unique. The inhabitants, "Chatham Islanders," have lived here for many hundreds of years, carry a fascinating history, and actively support the ongoing conservation efforts.