Posts Tagged restoration

Conservation, Zoos and Elephant - Wayne Linklater Dec 11

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Elephant in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. Photo credit: Chris Kelly.

Frighteningly, resurgent ivory demand threatens elephant with extinction over large areas of their range. It is a world-war for wildlife on a massive scale. Governments, conservation agencies and private landowners are mobilised across Africa and Asia spending enormous amounts of money to protect elephant. I hope they win the war so that our children can live in a world with big, magnificent animals.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand…

Auckland Zoo is hoping to import two elephants at a cost of about $3.2 million. Franklin Zoo is trying to raise $1.45 million to send an ex-circus elephant which recently killed its keeper to a sanctuary in the USA.

Hamilton’s Gully Restoration Program to bring wildlife back into the city cost just $65,000 but its budget was cut by $20,000 earlier this year, although only 1.6% of Hamilton’s ecological district remains in native vegetation.

Zealandia, New Zealand’s first fenced mainland biodiversity sanctuary, needs just $700,000 a year to continue to protect and advance the biodiversity gains of Wellington City, but has been under severe budgetary scrutiny.YouTube Preview Image

Ironically, Wellington and Hamilton City’s ecological restoration projects cost less each year than sending Hamilton’s single elephant to the USA. The $4.65 million to import two elephant and export another would support the annual operating costs of six Zealandias and 67 large-scale biodiversity restoration projects by communities, like Hamilton’s Gully Restoration.

Imagine it – a mainland wildlife sanctuary and city-wide ecological restoration project in every major city and large town in New Zealand bringing the forests and birds back to our cities and our grandchildren.

At least 2788 New Zealand species are threatened with extinction. New Zealand has one of the world’s worst records of habitat loss and species extinction. We could reverse that trend by protecting and restoring habitat, but we are limited by a lack of funds.

The cost of importing and exporting three elephant compared with expenditure by community groups and government to protect and restore New Zealand’s native plants and animals.

The cost of shipping just three elephant is also as large as the annual biodiversity and biosecurity budgets of Auckland City and Wellington Regional Council to protect and enhance native ecosystems on land, in our rivers, estuaries and along our coasts, and prevent the spread of invasive pests that threaten our nation’s economy (see graph above).

The $4.65 million for just three elephants is also almost half as much as the Department of Conservation’s $10 million NZ Biodiversity Fund supporting biodiversity protection by landowners and communities nationwide.

Zoos make claims that elephants are important conservation advocates but the war for elephant is largely someone else’s war. We should not pretend to fight the world war for wildlife in trivial ways in our zoos while losing battles at home – like sending troops to a defend a country on the other side of the world while another threatens our own shores and families.

New Zealand’s biodiversity problems cannot be addressed by more elephants in zoos, but might be with ecological restoration and conservation advocacy based on native habitat and species in the places we live, work and play.

Our priorities for conservation advocacy could be better addressed by community restoration projects like Auckland’s Kaipatiki Project or Hamilton’s Gully Restoration, and mainland wildlife sanctuaries like Zealandia in Wellington. Instead of donating funds to move zoo elephants, consider donating to protect NZ Sea Lion or Maui’s Dolphin, eradicate mice on the Antipodes Islands (the Million Dollar Mouse Project), or plant the banks of your local stream with native vegetation for our native birds, reptiles, and fish.

Elephant are magnificent, but so is waking up to the call of kokako, summers swimming in clean beaches and rivers, or watching a Hector’s dolphin crest a wave. Only the last three, however, are unique to New Zealand. Keeping elephants in NZ does not make economic or conservation sense.

In a future post I will evaluate the reasons given by Zoos for having elephant in NZ and seek evidence for their claims.

The Greening of National: just add Gold - Wayne Linklater Nov 27

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Perhaps your Grandmother, like mine upon seeing my striped shirt, advised that “blue and green shouldn’t be seen, without a colour in between”. Fashion though, like the economy and its politics, is never constant – they are always reinventing themselves. Those clashing stripes have ‘gone out’ again but I think blue-green is set to become fashionable in the economies and politics of Aotearoa.

Conservation is portrayed in opposition to economic growth, and even freedoms and fairness that are central to our aspirations as communities [1] – especially our small communities whose economies were based on logging and mining forests. Increasingly, however, the protected landscape and its forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands are described by the services they provide to the same communities. In the provinces of New Zealand, conservation is finding itself on the agenda of the political right – blue and green without a colour in between.

Honorable Bill English (centre) speaks at the signing of an agreement between Hump Ridge Track Ltd. and Victoria University.

This month a team from Victoria University visited Tuatapere, Southland, and the Hump Ridge Track Ltd. Victoria is lending its expertise in the likes of tourism, restoration ecology, business, and wildlife management to a community making enormous strides in the new blue-green economy. Honourable Bill English, MP Clutha-Southland, and Mayor Frana Cardno, Southland District, oversaw the signature of an agreement between the two partners.

Neil Quigley (left, Victoria) and Stewart Weir (Chairman of Tuatapere Hump Track Ltd.) sign the agreement.

The Hump Ridge Track story is a lesson in the resilience of our nation’s provinces and their capacity to innovate. It is one of many examples of small communities fighting for survival in new economies that are dictated by big-city voters and big-city politicians. Declining support for indigenous forestry eventually ended logging in Waitutu Forests - NZ’s largest intact lowland beech-podocarp forest – during the 1990s. Tuatapere’s economy, based largely on exporting logs, was ‘gutted’.

Later, so the story goes, Helen Clark, Prime Minister of a Labour-led government with environmental sympathies and visiting Invercargill, offered Mayor Cardno a ride to Tuatapere. Never letting a chance go by, Mayor Cardno accepted and is said to have ‘bent’ Helen’s ear for the entire 90 minute journey. Southland’s feisty Mayor must have been convincing. Two months later $900,000 arrives from the Clark government to establish the Hump Ridge Track – tourist infrastructure for Tuatapere. And so its transformation to the new blue-green economy began. The forests of Waitutu are protected and will be improved as Tuatapere grows a tourism economy. In March this year the Hump Ridge Track won tourism gold – a Enviro Gold award (Qualmark) and milestone in Tuatapere’s new economy.

Our economy is increasingly based on the future of our environment – our clean water, wild places, and wildlife. Even Southland’s economy is 10-12% tourism and that portion is growing rapidly. In the long-suffering provinces of New Zealand ecological restoration and economic development are becoming partners. Think instead, Ecological Development and Economic Restoration. There is gold in them thar hills – tourist gold, Enviro Gold – hard won, but winnable nonetheless.

None of this should be new to Honourable Bill English or the National-led government. The promise is that ecological restoration will be seen as a tool in the development of New Zealand’s small-town economies in districts that are often, ironically, largely National Party constituencies. These are their people doing conservation.

Political commentators have identified the challenge to the National Party of finding credible coalition partners for the future. The demise of the far-right has laid National’s flank bare – undefended. But a National Party intent on seeing ecological restoration as part of its toolkit for economic development in its heartland might also steal Labour’s green stripes and attract a stronger environmental vote throughout New Zealand. The Green Party would necessarily follow.

First, however, National will need to allow its belief that New Zealand’s environment is in good shape to be challenged by the over-whelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Currently National seem hell-bent on self-delusion – ignoring ecological science, dismissing scientists, and defending a brand (100% Pure), rather than protecting the environment that makes the brand possible. Perhaps a new generation of leaders in National is required – I hope not. We need to make progress much faster than that.

Once upon a time, the political colour in between blue and green was red – Labour red. Increasingly, National has an opportunity to partner the environmental Green. My grandmother might also have observed that if you want to turn deepest blue, bright-bright green, just add gold. How right she was – tourism gold.


1          Fischer, D. Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies: New Zealand and the United States.  (Oxford University Press, 2012).


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