Arrival at Whenua Hou!

Patricia Latas
April 28, 2014 share
Artists for Conservation

11 April 2014

Arrival! Hoki mai!

At long last, the day has come to depart for the beautiful sanctuary island of Whenua Hou.The day dawned clear and cold in Invercargill, open skies with whispy cirrus clouds. No wind!


The first stage was arrival at the quarantine store, where all gear, persons and supplies were minutely inspected for seeds, soil, rodents, insects and other contamination. The entire process for 2 volunteers was about two hours.



The trip to the airport was made in the quarantine van, which is also minutely inspected prior to every departure. Sealed containers of supplies and equipment are loaded onto the van, and the 5 minute trip to the airport is clean.


The mode of transport for this trip was a very posh helicopter (also minutely inspected). After loading and safety instructions (I mean, really, if we go down, will there be a need for the life jacket?), we were off!


There could not have been more perfect weather for a chopper ride to Whenua Hou. No wind and crystalline sea, smoothest helicopter flight I have ever taken. Water visibility was astonishing, the bottom was visible even to 30 meters depth. Flying over a portion of the Ruggedy Range on Stewart Island, every detail of the canapoy below was outlined in sunlight and shadow; the beaches pure and smooth; each albatross and gull clearly visible from our 300 meter flying altitude.

The landing on the 10 meter by 10 meter helipad on the island was delicate and perfect.The usual controlled chaos of dis-embarking and unloading of the equipment took about 10 minutes.


I was so thrilled to see Darryl Eason, the official "grandpa" of all kakapo chicks. He is the one person most responsible for the sucess of the recovery of the Kakapo. It has been his intense dedication, study, and voluminous knowledge that has resulted in sucessful hatching and rearing of these very precious chicks. Plus he is a wonderful person and generous man.

Also greeting the flight was Alisha Shariff, dedicated veterinary nurse and care-giver to eggs and chicks. She has hand-raised most of the chicks of the last 5 years. Dedicated, sleepless, and always there for the baby Kakapo. It was wonderful to see her again.

I also met, for the first time, Dr. Lisa Argilla, the official veterinarian on the island. She is with the Wellington Zoo, and has a strong personal interest in birds. She was with the bumper crop of chicks in 2009, and returned for the 2014 Whenua Hou chicks.

Of course, there were about 11 other people: the hard-working rangers, sleepless and worn-out volunteers. The core of the Kakapo Recovery Team, and the ones who keep everything running and organized.

Gear and equipment was removed from helipad to ranger hut, where the hut was sealed and all bags, boxes, and equipment were opened and inspected once more.

Whenua Hou underwent predator removal and is now predator free. That means there are no rats or mice, stoats/weasels/ferrets/cats or hedgehogs to kill the helpless indigenous wildlife. Bringing even one mouse to the island could mean disaster for the Kakapo. The quarantine and inspections are serious business. There are traps and monitoring stations all over the island, and a part of the nest-minding volunteers' responsibilities are to watch for rodents.

And tonight...I get to be a nest-minder for Huhana!






Codfish Island, Southland, NZ
New Zealand
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