Chinese Ambassador farewells godwits

Friday, 20 March, 2015


Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong (left) and DOC Director-General Lou Sanson at the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre on the Firth of Thames watch godwits about to fly to China © DOC

The Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand visited the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre on the Firth of Thames today (Friday March 20) to watch bar-tailed godwits and red knots that are flying to China on the way to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia.

Ambassador Wang Lutong watched the godwits and red knots feeding in preparation for their epic flights covering around 12,000km.

The godwits breed in Alaska, the red knots breed in Siberia. Both stop over at wetlands in China. Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Pukorokoro-Miranda Naturalists Trust, that runs the shore bird centre, are working with authorities in China on protecting sites godwits and red knots roost at during their massive migration flights.

Ambassador Wang observed the birds with DOC Director-General Lou Sanson, Fonterra Head of Cooperative Affairs Waikato Paul Grave, Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, Chair of the Pukorokoro-Miranda Naturalists Trust Gillian Vaughan and Director of Ngāti Paoa Group Holdings Brett Rhind.

“Around 5000 godwits spend their summers at Pukorokoro-Miranda. Half these birds have left for China on the way to their Alaskan breeding grounds. In November they’ll make the return journey, flying nonstop 12,000km from Alaska back to Pukorokoro-Miranda,” says DOC Director-General Lou Sanson.

“China and New Zealand have recognised that we have a responsibility to ensure that these remarkable birds can continue to make these epic flights.”

“That’s why DOC and the Pukorokoro-Miranda Naturalists Trust are working with partners in China to ensure that these birds can continue making these amazing flights that are part of their life cycle.”

Ambassador Wang says his visit to Pukorokoro Miranda was a wonderful experience.

“Today I have experienced the wonder of nature and the wonder of people. These incredible birds form a chain that links China and New Zealand. They also link human beings and nature. We help ourselves by helping the godwits.”

Ambassador Wang says China has attached a high importance to protecting birds with Yalu Jiang Nature Reserve providing a seasonal home for an estimated one million birds, with 240 species, including godwits.

Pukorokoro Miranda features a rare coastal landform, a Chenier plain, consisting of shell banks. This habitat provides a seasonal home for around 40 species of shorebirds including bar-tailed godwits and red knots.

Fonterra and DOC are working with the Pukorokoro-Miranda Naturalists Trust and NgātiPaoa in the Pukorokoro Miranda catchment as part of their Living Water conservation partnership.

Living Water is a 10-year partnership, valued at $20 million. Living Water covers five catchments in significant dairying regions throughout the country. It involves Fonterra and DOC working with communities, iwi and farmers to improve water quality and increase the abundance and variety of native species in each of the catchments.

Living Water work at Pukorokoro Miranda is focusing on securing and enhancing the rare Chenier Plain, which is recognised as an internationally significant wetland by the Wetlands Convention, established in 1971 at Ramsar in Iran.

Fonterra Head of Cooperative Affairs Waikato Paul Grave says the long distance flights of the bar-tailed godwits and red knots is unbelievable.

“Fonterra is thrilled to be part of the work being done in the Pukorokoro Miranda catchment to protect the habit these birds rely on to keep making these phenomenal flights.”

Chair of the Pukorokoro-Miranda Naturalists Trust Gillian Vaughan says the trust has been visiting the Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve in China since 1999 and established a sister-site partnership with the reserve in 2004.

“The Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve is vital link in the international flight path of bar-tailed godwits and other migratory birds.”

“Its essential New Zealand continues to work with China and other countries connected by these birds. The Trust is also working with RO and DPR Korea in our work to protect the habit these birds rely on for their survival.”

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