12 October 2019


Wildlife Sanctuary

Blue Penguin in Nesting Box




Tuatara lunching


Hawkes Bay Weta




Grey Faced Petrel Chick


The Cole Murray Cape Kidnappers Trail Run passes over private land and part of this includes the biggest privately owned wildlife sanctuary in New Zealand – Cape Sanctuary.

The main objective of establishing the sanctuary was to restore land birds, sea birds and reptiles on three properties on the Cape Kidnappers peninsula – Cape Kidnappers Station and part of the neighbouring property – Haupouri Station owned mainly by the Hansen family and partly by Andy and Liz Lowe. It was the drive of Andy Lowe that made this wildlife sanctuary a reality.

The initiative is unique in that it is the first time large-scale wildlife conservation has been undertaken in a farming/multi use landscape.

The first stage of the project was to build a predator-proof fence stretching 10.6km across the neck of the peninsula from coast to coast. The fence helps prevent predators from reinvading the headland.

The fence was completed in 2007 and the project is now into its eleventh year.

There are three full time staff, two part time staff, a few contractors and many volunteers involved with the project. In addition to the fence an intensive pest control programme operates over the headland; 1,400 traps and 2,500 bait stations are checked on a regular basis. The aim is to knock out everything from rat size upwards – ferrets, stoats, weasels, cats, goats, possums, hedgehogs etc. Possums have nearly been eradicated from the peninsula but feral cats still pose a problem with more than 1,700 caught to date.

The aim is to bring back wildlife that once lived on the peninsula and this began by re-establishing birds and animals from other parts of New Zealand. Tomtit, whitehead, rifleman, robins were successfully re-established in the sanctuary in 2008. Eight years ago, brown kiwi was introduced and there are currently more than 100 in the sanctuary. Some kiwi have started to breed. The pateke, which is the fourth rarest duck in the world, has also been released at the sanctuary – many pairs are nesting at the moment and there are ducklings everywhere.There are now more than 200 pateke in the sanctuary, about 10% of the national population.

The landowners vision is to restore sea birds as well as land birds. The area would have once been home to thousands and thousands of burrowing sea birds who spend most of their life on the sea but come to the land to breed. They are no longer present on the peninsula. They need to be re-established both for their sake and for the sake of a variety of reptiles, which thrive in the nutrient rich habitat that the seabirds create.

Over 450 grey-faced petrel chicks have been transferred to the Seabird site and hand-reared since 2008. This species takes at least five years to mature at sea. The first juveniles began to return to prospect in 2014, and one pair even hatched and raised their very own chick in 2015 – the first sanctuary/Cape Kidnappers peninsula bred grey-faced petrel for probably for over 100 years.

350 Cooks-petrel have been released into the sanctuary and a re-introduction programme for diving petrel is also underway.

Blue penguins were numerous in the past and the landowners are currently working on increasing their numbers. The penguin nesting boxes will be able to be seen for those doing Stage 2 of the trail run. More than 30 of the boxes are used for nesting from July onwards.

Variable Oystercatchers are now breeding successfully along the coastline of the sanctuary along with New Zealand dotterels and other shorebirds.

Tuatara were first released into the sanctuary in the Autumn of 2012. Another 40 from Stephens Island were released in November 2012. Hatched tuatara eggs were discovered in March 2014.  Five hatchlings were discovered in 2017 so breeding is underway perhaps for the first time in over 200 years in this region.

The species restoration programme is now about 70% complete. Kakariki (red-crowned parakeet), kaka, takahe and saddlebank were released in 2013, largely completing the land bird restoration programme.

Volunteers continue to play a huge part in this project as do the Department of Conservation and Regional Council. The achievements thus far would not have happened without the support of many people.