Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre
The forest was acquired by the government in the 1870s as part of the “Seventy Mile Bush”, which covered the area from Masterton to Central Hawkes Bay before European settlement. Most of the bush was destroyed and converted to farmland, but the 942 hectare Mount Bruce block was protected as a Forest Reserve. Some 55 ha of this were further protected as a Native Bird Reserve, administered by the Wildlife Service.
In 1962, the centre was established to breed and release endangered native birds on these 55 hectares. Takahe (a very rare bird, thought extinct, but rediscovered in Fiordland) were the first species introduced. In the same decade, a large number of brown teal, buff weka and kākāriki were released.
In 2001 the entire forest became part of the wildlife reserve, extending the area from 55 to 942 hectares, increasing capacity to breed birds and diversified species. About 100 km of tracks were cut and thousands of traps and bait stations were scattered, setting up an area for wildlife with low predator pressure.
Pukaha Mount Bruce missions
The main objective of is to help restore native wildlife. Currently restoration mostly concerns birds, but will expand to bats and reptiles such as the tuatara.
Bird releases started in 1996 with nine kākā, a kind of parrot. There are now approximately 160 kākā in the forest, and the goal is to have a population of 600 in a few years. North Island brown kiwi and North Island kōkako translocations followed in 2003. Over 15 kiwi are currently living in the forest and two in the nocturnal house, including some chicks. For the breeding programme, they incubate kiwi eggs to protect chicks and thus give them the chance to become adult.
Many schools visit the centre. Some sponsor a kiwi, so they can follow its progress since the release. They participate in the LEOTC (Learning experiences Outside the Classroom) education programme, giving them the chance to see the kiwi and to learn about environmental problems facing New Zealand.
The second biggest mission of the centre is to welcome tourists and to educate them about environmental things and the protection of the wildlife. There are about 50,000 visitors per year.
There are several tourist facilities: a café, aviaries to discover the native birds and the nocturnal house where they can see the shy kiwi. There are guided visits and a daily feeding demonstrations for kākā and eels.
There is a staff of about 15: two work in reception, seven work with the birds or on forest regeneration, two on marketing and communication, and three or four at the café. There are also many volunteers from all over the world, who help the rangers with various tasks including preparing for the bird feeding and maintaining the aviaries and the park for the tourists.
It is closed only on Christmas Day.
- Winter, Gareth. "Elwyn Owen Arnold Welch". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- "Mt Bruce kaka population soars". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Berry, Raelene (1998). Reintroduction of kaka (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis) to Mount Bruce Reserve, Wairarapa, New Zealand. Science for conservation, 89. Wellington: Department of Conservation. ISBN 0-478-21732-3.
- Icon birds, Pukaha Mount Bruce.
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