The Routeburn and Dart valleys are home to several native birds as well as New Zealand’s only native land mammal – the bat or pekapeka.
In pre-European times these valleys were alive with birdsong from birds that evolved in isolation from the rest of the world; the birds thus have little or no natural self-defence and are easily killed by predators (ship rats, stoats, possums, mice and cats) brought to New Zealand in the last few hundred years by European settlers. Unless these introduced predators are controlled or eliminated the birdsong once heard in these valleys will become only a memory.
Many native bird species in New Zealand have become extinct in the last couple of hundred years and many existing species have had their range reduced. The yellowhead that are still found in the Routeburn and Dart valleys occupy less than 3% of their original national range. The Dart valley has about 25% of the total national population
Small populations of some bird species are now kept on off shore islands to protect them. The Routeburn and Dart valleys are well suited as mainland sites for bird protection – and they have the bonus of being easily accessible for people to see and hear the birds. The enclosed nature of the Routeburn valley (narrow at the entrance, surrounded by alpine peaks and buffered by the surrounding Dart valleys) makes it possible (combined with intensive pest control and species reintroductions) to create an inland sanctuary here.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has conducted species recovery work here for many years, mainly targeting yellowhead. Air New Zealand and Genesis Energy sponsorship supports protection of blue duck in the Routeburn valley and the rock wren in the higher alpine areas.
Although protection of other species is beyond current resources, in 2017 the Trust decided to expand its work into the Dart and Rees braided rivers that flow from the valleys into Lake Wakatipu at Glenorchy.
By working together with tourism operators, DOC and our community, the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust raises funds and uses local enthusiasm, resources and expertise to support field work and raise awareness through education. All donations from customers go into biodiversity projects in these valleys.
To find out more about our past, current and future projects click here. With your help we can succeed in our vision to Bring Back the Birdsong to the Routeburn and Dart valleys for all to enjoy.