Coal Island - Te Puka Hereka

The Tied Anchor Preservation Ark

Te Puka-Hereka Island, translated means The Tied Anchor, and is commonly known as Coal Island.

Situated in Fiordland National Park, south of Milford Sound, Coal Island (1163 ha) lies in the entrance to Preservation Inlet, between Puysegur Point and Gulches Head.

Mission Statement

To establish and fund a world class sanctuary on Te Puka-Hereka for rare and endangered native species of flora and fauna that will be jointly developed by private philanthropists, corporate and government participants.

News

Where to find the latest in news and happenings for Coal Island

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Projects / Restoration

All about our projects and restoration and how you can get involved

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The Trust

The South West New Zealand Endangered Species Charitable Trust was established in 2004

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Endangered Species Planned Introduction

 

Island given  pest free status 2006.

2012 our first relocation of endangered species,

 – Haast Kiwi. We now have 29 breeding birds on the Island and chicks are expected to of been born this breeding season. Harvesting the chick to increase the gene pool is set for 2017-2018

2014, June Robins were re introduced to Coal Island followed by Mohua- Yellow heads in October.

 

Birds

 

  • Sea birds
  • Yellowhead (Mohua) Introduced, Oct 2015
  • Robin (Toutouwai) Introduced, July 2015
  • Kiwi (Brown or Little Spotted) Introduced 2009.

Reptiles

  • Tuatara
  • Gecko

Plants

  • Mistletoe (several beech varieties, Peraxilla tetrapetala and colensoi and Alepsis flavida)
  • Orchid (Drymoanthus flavis)
  • Sand Spurge (Euphorbia glauca)
  • punui (Stilbocarpa lyallii)
  • Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum robustum)

History of Coal Island and the trust.

South West NZ Endangered Species Charitable Trust - Te Puka Hereka

By Ian Buick

 

 

Te Puka Hereka (The Tied Anchor) - more commonly known as Coal Island - was the focus for the formation of the trust in 2004. The brainchild of South West Helicopters pilot and partner Wayne Pratt, the trust represents private, government and iwi interests.

 

The 1163ha Coal Island sits at the mouth of Fiordland’s southernmost fiord, Preservtion Inlet, and at the time had not been on the Department of Conservation’s (DoC) list of priorities for restoration mainly due to its proximity to the adjacent mainland and the small 'stepping stone’ islands, Steep To, Round and Weka, to the north. At the time, the concern was that even if pests and introduced species could be eradicated from Coal Island it would be too challenging to ensure pests did not repopulate it,

 

Between the trust's formation and 2007 some $58,000 was raised from private donations and supporting agencies such as WWF and the Lotteries Commission. This funding enable the trust to make considerable progress.  At that time, Wayne was also a partner in Kisbee Lodge at Cromaty, Kisbee Bay, and the trust was very grateful to have access to the lodge for our volunteers during those early years.

 

During this period work carried out included:  

 

  • The trust website – www.coalisland.co.nz – was developed
  • An archeological survey of the island was carried out
  • A business plan was developed
  • Pests and predators identified - red deer, stoats and mice.  Coal Island had no rats.

 

Track cutting was carried out in 2005 by a team of Tuatapere bushmen under the guidance of Wayne Pratt and Johan Groters.  A total of 15km of track was cut and two of the 3 three tracks on the island are named after Wayne and Johan.  A survey of the island's vegetation was carried out (Geoff Rogers and Brian Rance ) to identify and catalogue rare and endangered native plant species.

 

Pest eradication got underway with 150 stoat traps installed around the three island tracks, on the mainland shoreline and the 'stepping stone' islands.  The trust was honoured to host a visit to the island by the then Minister for Conservation, the Hon. Chris Carter in June 2005.  That same year volunteers carried out several “prefeeds' to determine the level of interest by stoats and which baits attracted them. A bird count by a team from The University of Otago in the spring of 2005 helped to establish a baseline from which to assess recovery in future years

 

The traps were set and checked and reset three times at monthly intervals.  In all, 35 stoats were caught.  The traps continued to be checked monthly but no more stoats were caught and the island was declared (hopefully) stoat free.  Stoats continued to be caught on the mainland and those traps, along with those on the island, continue to be monitored and reset by volunteers every three months.

 

In January 2006 the trust erected a bivvy on the island at Moonlight Point as a safety back-up for anyone stranded there due to bad weather.  A team of professional hunters carried out a red deer survey and culled 24 animals over eight days.  Later that year the same team culled a further 21 animals and private hunters accounted for 15 more.  Interestingly, a year later a further 17 were culled making a total of 77 deer removed from the island. The deer were seriously detrimental to the island’s flora and the regeneration since their removal has been outstanding.

 

In June 2007 the trust received welcome news – confirmation of funding for a mouse eradication programme. The Lotteries Commission provided $155,000, with an additional $36,000 provided by the Community Trust of Southland, and $5,000 from DoC.

 

 After months of preparation and planning the Foveaux Freighter sailed into Preservation on June 29th with cereal bait, helicopter fuel and associated equipment. In July and August two bait spreading operations were carried out using 2 helicopters.  Since then (2007) no mice have been detected on the island by our monitoring using snap traps and tracking tunnels.  We have had an amazing success and need to guard our 'mouse-free' status carefully.

 

I feel compelled here to pay tribute to the magnificent team loading for this operation on Moonlight Beach and to the precision and accuracy of the two pilots, Peter Garden and Grant Goatley.

The trust continues to monitor for mice as part of our quarterly stoat trap check.

 

During the next two years discussions were held about the introduction and reintroduction of endangered species.  Birdlife naturally occurring on the island were already showing signs of resurgence.

 

A new line of 31 traps was installed in June 2009 on the mainland track leading uphill from the oil store, known as the Painted Trail.  With the coastline track this now provided a double line of defence against reinvasion by stoats.  Both rats and stoats are regularly caught in the mainland traps

In July 2009 Kisbee Lodge caretakers, trustee Don Goodhue and his wife Josie, built and installed 40 traps on the Morning Star track from the lodge to Te Oneroa, creating a further line of defence.  This line now extends to Revolver Bay with an additional 30 traps and six more were added to the shoreline opposite Weka Island.

 

After assessing the island's available food source with the intention of introducing kiwi, to introduce tokoeka (Haast kiwi) on to the island. The decision was made because there was no available sanctuary for tokoeka in their natural range in South Westland. An initial seven birds were released in December 2009.  These were monitored and found to be thriving, leading to another 10 tokoeka being released in the spring of 2011. 

 

The need for ongoing vigilance was highlighted in February 2010 when the volunteer team caught six stoats on the island.   Joyce and a volunteer went in again in March and found two mores stoats on the eastern line.   The May volunteer group also found stoats while checking traps.

 

And then, just as suddenly it stopped. No further stoat were found on the island, indicating our multiple mainland trap lines were them. There was speculation that the incursion could have been caused by one or two pregnant females reaching the island.

 

The island remained free of stoats until February 2015, when two were caught in traps on the Otago Retreat track.  Just as in 2010, 2015 was a double beech masting season. Mast seeding is the production of unusually high quantities of seed that occurs in beech trees in some years, leading big increases in populations of seed consumers (mice and rats) and, consequently, predator populations (stoats, feral cats).  DoC reported similar increases with their island projects to the north.

 

The trust's work continues with the regular three-monthly volunteer trap-checking and rebaiting trips, including the annual winter visit aboard the DoC’s Southern Winds vessel.  This trip allows extra work to be

the volunteer team caught six stoats on the island.   Joyce and a volunteer went in again in March and found two mores stoats on the eastern line.   The May volunteer group also found stoats while checking traps.

 

And then, just as suddenly it stopped. No further stoat were found on the island, indicating our multiple mainland trap lines were them. There was speculation that the incursion could have been caused by one or two pregnant females reaching the island.

 

The island remained free of stoats until February 2015, when two were caught in traps on the Otago Retreat track.  Just as in 2010, 2015 was a double beech masting season. Mast seeding is the production of unusually high quantities of seed that occurs in beech trees in some years, leading big increases in populations of seed consumers (mice and rats) and, consequently, predator populations (stoats, feral cats).  DoC reported similar increases with their island projects to the north.

 

The trust's work continues with the regular three-monthly volunteer trap-checking and rebaiting trips, including the annual winter visit aboard the DoC’s Southern Winds vessel.  This trip allows extra work to be carried out, such as replacing or adding new traps and recutting trap-line tracks.  It is surprising how quickly the tracks disappear without the deer to keep them open.

 

In June 2015, 69 South Island robins were caught on Anchor Island in Dusky Sound and released on Coal Island.  This exciting addition to the island's birdlife is quite significant because it is believed the island’s robin population were wiped out by predators 100 years ago.

 

Looking to the future, the trust’s our aim is to secure the re-introduction of further species, including mohua, kokako, saddleback, orange fronted parakeet and kakapo.

 

The great news is that the trust has now got the green light from DoC for the transfere of 80 mohua from Chalky Island to Coal Island in Sept./Oct. this year.  This is indeed another step on the way to our ultimate goal. 

 

Public support – volunteers and donations – are critical to the ongoing success of the trust’s work. Please visit our website (www.coalisland.co.nz) for information on how you can support us.

 

Where to from here? 

We are currently at a crossroads with regard to accommodation for our volunteers as we no longer have access to Kisbee Lodge.  We are examining a number of options.

 

There is little doubt that the survival of this country's vulnerable and threatened unique wildlife will depend for the forseeable future on constant and robust human intervention. 

This project is one of many, both private and state funded, that is helping to 'hold the line'.   Ours was a daunting and difficult task because of it's isolation, difficulty and expense of access and because of this the further difficulty in getting support from the general public for something most will probably never get the privilege of seeing.

Nevertheless, we are succeeding with technical help from DoC staff, the generous use of the 'Southern Winds' annually, the continued support of  volunteers and donations from many sources.

 

 

 

Ian Buick,  former managing director of South West Helicopters, was the founding chair of the trust and remains a trustee.  Ian has served on the Southland Conservation Board and was a foundation member of the Fiordland Marine Guardians.  He retired in 2009 and lives in the bush above Eastbourne.  Ian, along with several other trust members, is a member of Forest & Bird.