Six baby tūturuatu hitch a lift on Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has given a helping wing to six young tūturuatu (Shore plover), relocating them from Cape Sanctuary in Hawke's Bay to their new home on Motutapu Island.
16 August 2022

Shore plovers are endemic to New Zealand and are one of the world's rarest shorebirds. With a population of just 250, these rare native birds are only found in the Chatham Islands and two predator-free islands off the coast of Aotearoa.

In partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC), Air New Zealand flew the tūturuatu chicks from Hawke's Bay to Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) yesterday.

Two of the birds were bred at Cape Sanctuary and the other four at The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch, but were taken in by Cape Sanctuary prior to release day.

Since hatching in summer, the birds have been looked after with a collaborative effort from Cape Sanctuary staff, dedicated volunteers, and supported by the local hapu Ngati Mihiroa, who escorted them to their release site. The chicks will spend around three weeks acclimatising to their new surroundings at an aviary on Motutapu Island and once they've acclimatised, they'll be released into the wild to help bolster the Shore plover population on the island's shoreline.

Air New Zealand's Acting Head of Sustainability Jenny Sullivan says the airline is proud to work so closely with DOC.

"To be able to help move our precious wildlife around Aotearoa to ensure they thrive for future generations is incredibly special to everyone here at Air New Zealand," she says.

Over the past 10 years, DOC and Air New Zealand have partnered in relocating over 4,000 native birds including kiwi, kākāriki and takahe. The airline has also transported a number of conservation dogs vital in finding and keeping our wildlife safe from predators.

The Shore plover chicks were transported in the aircraft cabin, securely fastened in seats, and touched down in Auckland yesterday morning.

For flight attendant Annalise Michie the experience was one she'll never forget.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to be a part of. Every day in my job, I look forward to greeting our wonderful customers – but I got to greet some customers of a different, more feathery kind, and that's really special. It's not every day you get to say you played a small part in helping support the amazing work DOC does to protect the country's unique wildlife."

DOC Technical Advisor David Houston says a stoat incursion on Motutapu Island a couple of years ago all but wiped out the Shore plover population, but DOC and Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki have worked hard to eradicate the pests from the island.

"This transfer is the first step in restoring a breeding population of Shore plover to the island. A number of transfers over several years will be required to achieve this and we're grateful to Air New Zealand for the support they provide."



A link to photos of the relocation can be found through this link here.



Issued by Air New Zealand Communications.

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Air New Zealand's story started in 1940, first taking to the skies between Auckland and Sydney on a flying boat - a Short S30. Known for its warm Kiwi hospitality, today, the airline has 98 operating aircraft ranging from Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and Airbus A320s to ATRs and Q300s, offering customers comfort in the latest most efficient jets and turboprops. It's a modern fuel-efficient fleet with an average age of 6.7 years. Air New Zealand's global network of passenger and cargo services centres around New Zealand. Pre-Covid, the airline flew more than 17 million passengers every year, with 3,400 flights per week. Air New Zealand was recently named the World's Safest Airline by the Australian rating service, highlighting the airline's laser-focus on safety. This year, Air New Zealand won Best Corporate Reputation in New Zealand – 8th year in a row. Air New Zealand has a well-connected domestic business, connecting customers and cargo to 20 different regions around New Zealand. Internationally, the airline has direct flights to major cities across Australia, Asia, the Pacific Islands and the US, and through its strong relationships with alliance partners, offers customers more choice and convenience to connect further afield to hundreds of destinations. Air New Zealand has a particular focus on sustainability and its Sustainability Framework  helps guide the airline's efforts in tackling some of New Zealand's and the world's most complex challenges. Airpoints, Air New Zealand's loyalty programme, is seen as the most valuable loyalty programme in New Zealand with 3.5 million members. It allows members to earn Airpoints Dollars™ and Status Points for VIP benefits in the air and on the ground. Air New Zealand aircraft are proudly identified by its distinct tail livery of the Mangōpare, the Māori symbol of the hammerhead shark which represents strength, tenacity, and resilience.

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