Sinbad Sanctuary Project

14 June 2019

Conservation is a hot topic right now, but it’s something we’ve always believed in. So when Southern Discoveries got the opportunity to get involved with the Sinbad Sanctuary Project and help protect one of the most beautiful places on earth, we simply had to jump on board!

That was almost 10 years ago now, and since then this project has flourished into a successful and ongoing conservation effort we are extremely proud of. 

But what is the Sinbad Sanctuary Project? Well, in celebration of our 10th anniversary, we’re taking you on our adventure from the very beginning!

About the Sinbad sanctuary Project 

The Sinbad Sanctuary Project is a joint partnership between the Fiordland Conservation Trust, the Department of Conservation and us, Southern Discoveries, the principal sponsor. The project takes place in Sinbad Gully, located next to the iconic Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, and was established in 2009.

The goal? To restore this special part of New Zealand back to its former glory – a sanctuary for native wildlife. This is being achieved through the removal of introduced predators and the reintroduction of native species, which have previously been killed off by predators in this area.  

About Sinbad Gully 

Sinbad Gully is a very unique part of New Zealand due to the rare species that live here and because it’s naturally protected from predator invasion by its steep surrounding mountain walls. However, since the arrival of Europeans the area hasn’t escaped invasion by introduced pests such as stoats, rats and possums, which prey on our native bird and lizard species.

Sinbad Gully is home to at least 20 different types of native bird species, and was one of the last places kākāpō (the world’s rarest parrot) were found in their natural habitat. It is also home to one of most diverse communities of alpine lizards in the world, including the Sinbad skink, which has only been found here.

What we have achieved so far 

Since the project first started we have seen significant progress. Here are some of our proudest achievements:

  • When the project first began it was estimated that only ten kiwi birds lived in Sinbad Gully. However, by 2015 that the number had almost doubled to 19 kiwis!
  • In 2009, only one pair of whio (native blue ducks)were left in the Sinbad Gully. This was a devastating number, but fast forward ten years and it has increased to five breeding pairs! That’s nearing the maximum number of pairs that could live here.
  • In 2015, the Department of Conservation began monitoring 20 different bird species in Sinbad Gully. By 2017, they observed that 11 of these species had increased, including the bellbird, fantail, grey warbler, kereru, long-tailed cuckoo/koekoeā, redpoll, shining cuckoo/pīpīwharauroa, song thrush, tomtit, tui and weka. The other nine species came out with no decrease in numbers.

These three major accomplishments only scrape the surface of our past and present efforts, but they’re a good indication that the Sinbad Sanctuary Project is a successful one!

Why we got involved

Aside from absolutely cherishing New Zealand’s natural environment, we feel it is our duty to help protect Milford Sound.

Fiordland Conservation Trust chairperson Murray Willans said it best, “without the support of Southern Discoveries and their customers, projects like the Sinbad Sanctuary just wouldn’t happen.”

Conservation is not only about sustaining our business, but it’s also a core part of our culture that our team really values. That’s why our help with the project doesn’t just involve funding, but also volunteer work from staff who assist the Department of Conservation with trapping predators and surveying native wildlife.

The future of the Sinbad Sanctuary Project 

Thanks to a significant reduction in predators, in early 2020 we are planning to release 20 native robins back into Sinbad Gully to thrive. This is an exciting milestone for the project and one day we also hope to be able to reintroduce more species like kākāpō back into Milford Sound!

Two thousand and nineteen marks the 10th anniversary of the Sinbad Sanctuary Project, but we are far from finished. Conservation is a continued effort and one we plan to continue with the help and support of our valued customers.

If you want to support the project, you can do so by making a donation online when booking your Milford Sound cruise or at any of our visitor centres. Alternatively, you can simply join us on an adventure to Milford Sound, and a portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Department of Conservation to support their conservation work.  


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