First teal ducklings on Campbell Island
The reintroduction of the flightless Campbell Island Teal Anas nesiotis to its sub-Antarctic home in 2004, after more than a century of exile, was carried out successfully. But could they survive the harsh climate that was new to these captive and New Zealand-raised ducks, and equally importantly, would they breed?
In February 2005 a monitoring team from New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) found 78% of the transferred teal alive, but no ducklings. This was disappointing as they had bred in their first year when transferred from captivity to Whenou Hou (Codfish Island), a rat-free island off Stewart Island (a large island off the southern tip of NZ's South Island).
To build up numbers, a further 55 ducks were released on Campbell Island in September 2005. The release team tracked 48 of the total 105 ducks released. "The teal may not be able to fly, but are extremely fleet of foot, and the barest glimpse is all that may be seen," explained Pete Morrin, who was part of the 2004 release team, documenting the release on video, assisting with duck husbandry and radio tracking, and acting as sea lion distractor in the dense scrub.
"With continued breeding and dispersal, the teal will once again share Campbell Island with the albatrosses, sea lions and other wildlife that call this sub-Antarctic island home." —Pete Morrin, Campbell Island Teal recovery project
The team estimates that the numbers of sightings and recaptures represented the barest minimum of the birds surviving. The 2004-released teal no longer had transmitters, as they had been designed with a weak link so they would fall off after 12 months, when the batteries became flat.
In the end, it wasn’t a teal-monitoring team that saw the first teal ducklings ever seen on Campbell Island, but an albatross research team. A brood of small ducklings and their parents were sighted swimming by the wharf at Beeman Base in January 2006. This sighting was followed up in February by a teal monitoring team who, with the assistance of Percy the dog, found one small duckling with a female teal, three juveniles and two nests containing eggs.