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City park rangers want cats in Travis Wetland area belled

3 October 2007

The birds of Travis Wetland in Christchurch - some of them very rare - are under threat from cats hunting all the way into the central wetland.

A number of captive-reared pateke (brown teal), the rarest duck in New Zealand, have fallen victim to cats marauding in the wet lands.

Of the 20 patekes released into the Wetland in May, two were definitely hunted down by cats, says City park ranger John Skilton.

Transmitters on the pateke enabled rangers to locate some carcases. Harrier hawks and car drivers have also claimed some patekes. The number of female patekes among the released colony is critically low now.

There are currently fewer than 1000 brown teal living in a wild state in New Zealand, making it New Zealand’s rarest waterfowl species on the mainland.

The pateke is the least able to cope with the changes brought about by settlement and is now considered one of the four rarest waterfowl in the world.

“We have to keep in mind that these birds are captive-reared and have to learn to fend for themselves in the wild,” says Mr Skilton.

Mr Skilton has observed domestic cats leaping over metre-wide water gaps and stalking teals on water-bound islets in the wetland.

“This clearly demonstrates that cats are capable of moving through all types of wetland habitats including water,” he says.

He and other rangers have observed an increasing number of cats camping out and staking birds at the Travis Wetland during winter.

Mr Skilton wants cats in and around the wetland area to be belled to it make difficult for them to sneak up on birds.

The bells will also enable rangers to identify between pets and feral cats; wild cats can be trapped and eliminated. Feral cats are the number one predator for the pateke

He also says cats owners could ensure they keep their pets indoors at night as this is the most vulnerable time for birds, especially brooding birds.


For further information please contact John Skilton on (03) 941 7540 or email


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