Rifleman Update
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

Rifleman Update

The latest updates on the rifleman translocation cancellation and our future plans can be found on this page.

1 May 2017 - Update

Following the postponement of the rifleman translocation from Wainuiomata, we have started to look more broadly at the conservation of the species across the North Island – if this species is in decline at the Wainuiomata site, how is it faring elsewhere?

This is a crucial question that we need to address to ensure this species is protected into the future, and ultimately the information we gain will assist us in finding another source location for translocation should we need one. As such, we are now working with volunteers to collate data on how rifleman populations are tracking across different sites.

We have put all donations for the rifleman translocation aside for now. They will be put to good use to either support a second attempt at a translocation, or for another key restoration project such as the lower lake.

Danielle Shanahan
Manager Conservation, Learning, Research and Experience


23 February 2017 - Update

We have just learned that the titipounamu / rifleman population in the Wainuiomata source site (the Wainuiomata / Orongorongo Key Native Ecosystem area) considerably lower than previously thought and, as a consequence, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the translocation into ZEALANDIA scheduled for March. 
Greater Wellington Regional Council monitors the populations of titipounamu every year, and the latest data sadly shows a decline of New Zealand’s smallest bush bird in the Wainuiomata  site. It is expected this is happening due to high rat numbers which occur when trees have an exceptionally high seeding season (otherwise known as a ‘mast’), of which we have had several in recent years. The worrying trend of more frequent mast events is  happening nation-wide, possibly linked to climate change.
Our colleagues in Greater Wellington Regional Council manage significant predator control operations in the Wainuiomata site, however, the recent data shows just how vulnerable our native species are to predation, and the importance of our national Predator-Free 2050 goal.  In the meantime, predator free areas such as ZEALANDIA have a critical role to play in conservation and the management of populations at a national level.
Naturally, we are all very disappointed that titipounamu will not be coming to ZEALANDIA this year, but conservation of species is our first and foremost concern and this is definitely the right decision in the light of the most up-to-date data.  It also highlights the extent to which conservation is not a short-term endeavour, as if any of us thought that!
Over the next year we will be working with all our partners to identify possible alternative places where titipounamu are thriving for a possible translocation, as well as other opportunities for new species introductions to ZEALANDIA and Otari Wilton’s Bush. We will also continue to play an active role in discussions regarding the management of our threatened native species.
Thank you for your ongoing and much valued support. 

Danielle Shanahan
Manager Conservation, Learning, Research and Experience

A Message for our Donors

We will be looking for another source population healthy enough to transfer into ZEALANDIA at a later date. If this is not possible in the foreseeable future, we will put the funds raised for the project in to another species translocation or major conservation project over the next two years.

We understand that this may not be specifically the project that you opted to support, so we are able to return your donation if you should wish. Otherwise, rest assured that these funds will be reserved for a significant contribution to the conservation of New Zealand flora and fauna.

If you do wish to withdraw your donation to this project please contact us at


Photo: Rifleman at Lake Sylvan by Digitaltrails
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