David Crockett: Winner of the Chatham Islands Conservation Award 2012

David Crockett with taiko in 1978.  Photo: Taiko TrustDavid Crockett with taiko in 1978. Photo: Taiko TrustThe Chatham Islands Conservation Board would like to congratulate David Crockett for being the recipient of the Chatham Islands Conservation Award for 2012.

David is a well known identity to the Chatham community. He first visited the Chatham Islands in 1969 with the belief & previous research that the taiko were not extinct as thought to be back then. He started dedicated searches for taiko in 1972 and on New Year's Day in 1978 this came to fruition when two taiko were captured. Ever since then, David has returned to the Chathams most years to voluntarily assist with the recovery of the species and help run 'Taiko Camp', which has been used as a base for 'taiko expeditions' over the years.

David is a foundation member of both the Taiko Trust and Taiko Recovery Group and his sustained dedication to the recovery of the taiko is honorable and well deserves this prestigious recognition.

Taiko History
Far away on the other side of the pacific, the first taiko seen by Europeans was shot at sea from an Italian research ship Magenta in 1867. Taiko disappeared from scientific understanding for over a century, until its rediscovery by David Crockett and his team in 1978. It took another ten years for the first taiko burrow to be discovered in southern Chatham Island. Fossil and historic records show that taiko were once the most abundant burrowing seabird on Chatham Island. Oral records described extensive colonies of taiko at the southern end of Chatham Island that were regularly harvested by Moriori.

Ecology
Today there are 18 pairs of birds in known burrows that attempt to breed each year and from these adults, up to 13 chicks successfully fledge each year. The total population is currently estimated at 100-150 birds. Taiko nest in long burrows under forest cover. They form life-long monogamous pair bonds, and both sexes incubate the single white egg and feed the chick. During the breeding season, September to May, the birds forage over the open ocean, their distribution outside of the breeding season is unknown, although they may disperse eastwards into the South Pacific Ocean.

Threats and conservation
Since the location of the first burrow in 1987, a number of protection measures have been initiated. Gifting of land for the Tuku Nature Reserve by the Tuanui family, and the later establishment of a number of adjacent Conservation Covenants by landowners, has given protection to key areas of taiko habitat.

Predator control, targeting feral cats, possums, weka and rats, is undertaken daily to protect adult taiko visiting the colony, and eggs and chicks in the burrows. The intensive trapping has significantly improved the breeding success at known taiko burrows; since it began in 1988.

Community involvement
There has been an enormous amount of community involvement in conservation of the taiko, from its initial rediscovery, to the protection of land, to the large numbers of volunteers who have participated in telemetry and burrow-searches. The Chatham Island Taiko Trust was formed to promote taiko conservation work. The Trust established a predator-proof-fence at 'Sweetwater' to create a secure breeding ground for taiko and Chatham petrel. Translocations of taiko and Chatham petrel chicks have assisted in the successful recovery of both species.