The Sinbad Sanctuary Conservation Project and the animals it protects

13 September 2019

With Conservation Week starting this Saturday, we want to celebrate by shedding some light on a little-known project making big changes in Milford Sound! That project is called the Sinbad Sanctuary Conservation Project.  We’re proud partners of the project alongside the Fiordland Conservation Trust and  Department of Conservation. It’s a pest control programme to help threatened species in Sinbad Gully in Milford Sound to flourish. This year the project reached a milestone of 10 years and a lot has happened during this time.

From re-introducing endangered species into Sinbad Gully to seeing a rare bird’s population increase by 500%, the project has been a great success! At Southern Discoveries we’re honoured to be a part of it by providing funding and help on the ground from our staff.

But this project isn’t about us, it’s about them. And by ‘them’ we’re talking about the endangered animals who desperately need our help. In light of this special week, we want to celebrate by introducing you to a few of our friends from the Sinbad Gully in Milford Sound.

Sinbad skink 

The Sinbad skink is one of the rarest lizards in the world. This little guy is native to New Zealand, and is only found in the Sinbad Gully in Milford Sound. The species is now considered ‘nationally endangered’, which is the second-highest priority for conservation needed. 

The Sinbad skink wasn’t discovered until 2004 by Tony Jewell and wasn’t formally acknowledged until 2008.

Whio (blue duck)

The whio or blue duck is a very special bird in Milford Sound. When we first touched down in the Sinbad Gully there was only one breeding pair of whio. However, since our conservation efforts have begun that number has now increased to five – that’s almost the maximum number of breeding pairs that could live there!

The whio is found only in New Zealand and is actually rarer than some kiwi species. The duck once lived throughout New Zealand, but now they live only in limited areas on both the North and South Islands.  Their numbers are still declining nationally but thankfully in the Sinbad Gully, the opposite is happening! 

Fiordland tokoeka (kiwi) 

The kiwi bird is New Zealand’s most iconic animal species. That being said, many visitors are surprised to find out that there are actually five different kiwi species.The tokoeka is the species that calls the Sinbad Gully home. 

The Fiordland tokoeka is a unique species to the region. These birds differ to other species of tokoeka like the ones found on Stewart Island and around Haast on the West Coast. The main threat to these guys is introduced species such as stoats, cats, and rats. They’re another species considered ‘nationally endangered’.

All kiwi birds are considered endangered to some extent, so every effort to help wild populations thrive is very important. Since the Sinbad Sanctuary Project began, tokoeka numbers have almost doubled from only 10 to 19 birds!

South Island Robin 

The South Island robin is a friendly little bird that often greets hikers in New Zealand. Like other birds around New Zealand, these guys aren’t shy and often come within metres of people. They’re easily identified by their large upper bodies and very skinny legs. You’ll often find them trailing you on a hike hoping your footprints will unearth small insects and bugs. 

Unfortunately, there are limited numbers of South Island robin in the Sinbad Gully. The Robin is most commonly threatened by introduced species like cats and stoats. These animals prey on breeding robins and their eggs. As a result, in areas not under predator control, female and baby numbers have seriously decreased. 

Luckily in areas like the Sinbad Gully (where predator control is in place) their numbers are expected to rapidly increase once reintroduced. One of our biggest goals in 2020 is to reintroduce 100 native robins to the Sinbad Gully.

Conservation is everyone’s responsibility. If you want to help protect the animals mentioned above through support of the Sinbad Sanctuary Project, then join us on a cruise in Milford Sound and make a donation on our website!

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