Cooper Island Restoration Project

Turning silence to the sound of birdsong

Ao-ata-te-pō /Cooper Island is situated in Tamatea/Dusky Sound, a remote fiord on the southwest corner of New Zealand, accessible only by boat or helicopter.  Once home to prolific birdlife, introduced predators have decimated the millions of birds that once made Dusky Sound their home.  Removing introduced mammals from the island protects not only the birds but their habitat and the creatures and plants that they eat.

Milford Wanderer cruises through remote Fiordland

A $100,000 donation from the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation helped to kick off the project to remove introduced predators.  The $100,000 was primarily used to put in 12 kilometres of tracks, opening up the inland section of Island for trapping programme.

Location of stoats (red dots) and rats (orange dots) caught in May 2019

Stoat control has been carried out across the island since mid-2018 using a network of 500 traps, checked four times annually, and rats have been targeted across a 170 hectare grid at the eastern end of the island using self-resetting traps. Reinvasion by both pests to Cooper Island remains a challenge, as it is within the swimming range from the surrounding mainland.

The shaded rat control block is approx 170 ha and takes in the eastern end of Cooper Island.

Species currently present on Cooper Island that are likely to benefit from low numbers of stoats include South Island kākā Nestor meridionalis meridionalis, and tawaki/Fiordland crested penguin Eudyptes pachyrhynchus. Toutouwai/ New Zealand robins were confirmed as present on the island after being seen for the first time during a trip in January 2018. Other birds heard or seen most days included miromiro/tomtits, kākāriki, and weka.  Over the next few years, the project will move toward relocating threatened species back to Ao-ata-te-pō / Cooper Island.