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His­tory

The his­tory of Mount Bruce National Wildlife Cen­tre is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with that of the con­ser­va­tion of takahē and Elwyn Welch – a local farmer and ama­teur ornithol­o­gist. The takahē being the indige­nous bird species that was thought to be extinct and was redis­cov­ered in 1948, while Elwyn Welch was the farmer from Mount Bruce area who was a ded­i­cated ama­teur ornithol­o­gist suc­cess­fully breed­ing native bird species, includ­ing takahē.

The Pukaha Mount Bruce For­est is a pro­tected For­est Reserve and the last sur­viv­ing 942 hectares of the ancient Sev­enty Mile Bush that once stretched from Mas­ter­ton to cen­tral Hawkes Bay area on New Zealand’s North Island. This for­est was once a huge green cloak over the land­scape, with diverse tree species, includ­ing tow­er­ing rimu, totara and north­ern rata, as well as many ferns, shrubs, climbers and herbs. More­over, the for­est was alive with the sounds of many dif­fer­ent bird species, such as huia, kōkako, sad­dle­back, pio­pio, kaka and kiwi. But most of the bush was destroyed and con­verted to farmland.

The for­est was acquired by the gov­ern­ment in 1867 – bought from the Maori – and the Mount Bruce For­est was reserved and set aside in 1889. The rea­son for this is not quite clear. Three pos­si­bil­i­ties have been sug­gested. It was reserved because (a) it was the last remain­ing part of the Sev­enty Mile Bush, or (b) set­tlers might need a sup­ply for build­ing in later years, or © bird life was an impor­tant source of food for the local Maori.

Any­way, some 55 ha of the total 942 ha were fur­ther pro­tected as a Native Bird Reserve, admin­is­tered by the Wildlife Ser­vice. A captive-​breeding facil­ity for native wildlife was estab­lished on these 55 ha, build­ing on local farmer Elwyn Welch’s attempts to rear and breed the redis­cov­ered takahē (which started in 1957), the first species that was intro­duced to the Reserve. Local man Elwyn Welch became an expert in cap­tive rais­ing of birds, includ­ing endan­gered birds, lead­ing to suc­cesses with takahē (Por­phyrio hochstet­teri) in the 1950s.

The Wildlife Ser­vice suc­cess­fully bred brown teal in 1962, and whio (blue duck) in 1964, but did not suc­ceed in breed­ing takahē until 1977. In the same decade, a large num­ber of brown teal, buff weka and kakariki were released. The facil­ity was renamed as the National Wildlife Cen­tre (NWC) in 1980. The range of species held at Mount Bruce increased dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s, with suc­cess­ful breed­ing being recorded for North Island sad­dle­back, lit­tle spot­ted kiwi, great spot­ted kiwi, Antipodes Island para­keet, black stilt, hihi (stitch­bird), kereru, North Island kōkako, North Island robin, Auck­land Island teal and grand skink.

Since 1981, the NWC at Pukaha Mount Bruce has been jointly man­aged with the National Wildlife Cen­tre Trust, ini­tially in part­ner­ship with the NZ Wildlife Ser­vice, and later (since 1987) the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC). This arrange­ment allowed the DOC to con­cen­trate on cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes and the Trust to focus on vis­i­tor ben­e­fits. A vis­i­tor cen­tre com­plex was built and opened in 1983. Already two years later the noc­tur­nal house for kiwi was built.

Dur­ing the 1990s and sub­se­quently, the focus of cap­tive breed­ing at NWC was on breed­ing threat­ened species for release as part of national recov­ery pro­grammes and on devel­op­ment of cap­tive hus­bandry tech­niques for species that would require captive-​breeding pro­grammes. Major pro­grammes focussed on species such as Camp­bell Island teal, shore plover, North Island kōkako, hihi and kākā.

Inte­grated man­age­ment between the NWC and the adja­cent Mount Bruce Scenic Reserve began with the release of captive-​reared and translo­cated kākā in 1996. The suc­cess­ful rein­tro­duc­tion of kākā – a New Zealand’s first – led to the neces­sity of inten­sive preda­tor con­trol in the for­est, and this was fol­lowed by releases of North Island kōkako and North Island brown kiwi from 2003.

In 2001 the entire for­est became part of the wildlife reserve, extend­ing the area from 55 to 942 ha, increas­ing the capac­ity to breed a vari­ety of native species, includ­ing birds of course. About 100 km of foot­paths were cut and thou­sands of traps and bait sta­tions were scat­tered, set­ting up an area for wildlife with low preda­tor pressure.

In 2006 the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board has been estab­lished, a strong part­ner­ship between the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board, Ran­gi­tane o Wairarapa and the DOC. In July 2013 the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board took over the oper­a­tion of the Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, edu­ca­tion pro­grammes and retail activ­i­ties from the DOC. In Octo­ber 2015, it took over the oper­a­tion of the cap­tive breed­ing pro­gramme from the DOC as well, while the DOC is con­tracted to under­take the for­est restora­tion pro­gramme at Pukaha Mount Bruce on behalf of the Board.

Mount Bruce National Wildlife Cen­tre, now a well-​respected and suc­cess­ful Reserve, is still sit­u­ated about two kilo­me­tres from ‘Kelvin Grove’, Elwyn Welch’s farm where it all started.

The Centre’s mis­sion
Though not offi­cially called a zoo and not a mem­ber of the Zoo and Aquar­ium Asso­ci­a­tion (ZAA) Mount Bruce National Wildlife Cen­tre oper­ates like a reg­u­lar zoo­log­i­cal facil­ity with a mis­sion to con­serve and restore wildlife, oper­ates breed­ing pro­grammes and runs a visitor’s cen­tre focussed on edu­ca­tion. Prob­a­bly the only dif­fer­ence with a reg­u­lar zoo is their sole focus on native wildlife and tree species. Cur­rently restora­tion mostly con­cerns birds, but will expand to bats and rep­tiles such as the tuatara.

It has estab­lished a safe haven for species that once used to thrive in New Zealand. Addi­tion­ally, the captive-​bred indi­vid­u­als are being rein­tro­duced in the wild. Bird releases started in 1996 with nine kākā, the bush par­rot. Cur­rently there’s a colony of approx­i­mately 160 kākā in the Mount Bruce For­est, and the goal is to estab­lish a pop­u­la­tion of 600. Fur­ther­more, in 2003 North Island brown kiwi and North Island kōkako were suc­cess­fully rein­tro­duced to the area. Over 15 kiwi are cur­rently liv­ing in the for­est and two in the noc­tur­nal house. For the breed­ing pro­gramme, they incu­bate kiwi eggs to pro­tect chicks and thus give them the chance to become adult.

The Camp­bell Island teal
The Camp­bell Island teal captive-​breeding pro­gramme was notable as being one of the two major com­po­nents in the suc­cess­ful Camp­bell Island teal recov­ery pro­gramme, along with the 2001 erad­i­ca­tion of Nor­way rats from 11,300 ha Camp­bell Island. Captive-​bred teal were intro­duced to Whenua Hou (Cod­fish Island) in 1999 and 2000, and a mix of captive-​bred birds and ‘wild’ birds from Whenua Hou were suc­cess­fully rein­tro­duced to Camp­bell Island in 200406. This resulted in ter­mi­na­tion of the captive-​breeding pro­gramme in 2008, which had achieved its main goal.

The Cen­tre runs an exten­sive edu­ca­tion pro­gramme called the Learn­ing expe­ri­ences Out­side the Class­room (LEOTC), giv­ing school chil­dren the chance to see the kiwi and to learn about envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems fac­ing New Zealand.


(Source: Wikipedia; Elwyn Owen Arnold Welch from Teara – the ency­clo­pe­dia of New Zealand; Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion – Pukaha Mount Bruce cap­tive man­age­ment strate­gic direc­tion 20102015; web­site Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Cen­tre; Mount Bruce National Wildlife Cen­tre by Colin Scad­den, 2000)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

Tweets

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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