Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pitt stop

In 2008 I spent two weeks living on Pitt Island in the Chatham island group. Pitt is the second largest island and has about 40 people living on it. It is a wild and desolate island with much of the island being sheep or cattle farmland. Yet there are two DOC reserves with native forest. It was the bird populations in these forests that I was monitoring for the Department of Conservation, one of which, Caravan Bush has a predator proof fence around it. Wild cats are on the island and the fact that cats have not been eradicated from this island, which would certainly be feasible, is a great tragedy for conservation as Pitt Island is strategically located for the reintroduction of many of the critical endangered birds on the Chathams. Also much of the remaining forest is highly degraded by wild pigs and cattle. The most eerie aspect was walking amongst the giant nikau trees on the island and hearing the wind howl through them with many of the ancient Nikaus slowly getting wind blown and loosing their canopy or just falling over. Tragically outside of Caravan Bush there are no young Nikaus to regenerate. The islands farmers have to make a living but it is a highly marginal enterprise with the island's remoteness- the wealth is in cray and paua fisheries. To this day my memories of Pitt Island are of an isolated and desolate island on which a single pair of albatross bravely breed on a wind swept mountain top. Things may have changed since 2008 ? I certainly hope so. Photo- standing between the shadow of two Pitt Island Nikaus.