The Hihi, a bird species native to New Zealand, went extinct locally in the 1800s, but new reintroduction techniques are restoring their population.
The Hihi (Notiomystis
Researchers understand that when reintroducing a species in a given location, it will take
We found the Hihi were initially pretty random in their movements around Rotokare, as you would expect from birds exploring a new home, but towards the end of the study they had settled down onto territories, and they preferred to have territories in areas close to water.”
Researchers are using novel methods in acoustic monitoring that allow them to track the ways the Hihi is moving across time and space without having to track each animal individually. Monitoring the reintroduction as it unfolds requires acoustic recording devices to monitor the species in the wild. These techniques are being used to get a sense of how the Hihi are settling in and what breeding locations they prefer. This new method of monitoring has the potential to be less intrusive to the species being monitored as well as more cost effective in the long term. Not only this, it makes monitoring much simpler. If an animal is particularly small or cryptic, tracking each animal individually can be an incredibly daunting task for researchers.
The meticulous process of monitoring involved automated recording units (ARU’s) alongside statistical modeling methods to best understand the Hihi’s preferences. A grid of 31 ARUs was set up within Rotokare in 2017. They left the recording devices in the field for a total of 32 days after which time, they programmed an algorithm to detect the presence of Hihi calls within the recordings. This was all in an effort to better understand the native bird species and to determine its success in reestablishing itself. John Ewen, a senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London commented:
The more we can learn what is perfect for Hihi, the more we hope to reduce the intensive management support we need to provide to allow reintroduced populations to flourish.”
So far, it looks like there is hope for Hihi populations and hopefully, for many other species in New Zealand as well. These novel monitoring techniques will also provide future benefit as a means of reintroducing other locally extinct species to their rightful home and serve as a testament to what vigilant restoration work and removal of invasive species is capable of accomplishing.
Featured photo: A male and female Hihi. Credit: John Gerrard Keulemans/Wikimedia Commons
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