New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2022) 46(3): 3487

Introduction, rescue, and subsequent history of Auckland Islands livestock

Research Article
Michael Trotter 1*
Michael Willis 2
  1. 170 Tuahiwi Road, RD1, Kaiapoi 7691, New Zealand
  2. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, 60 Hussey Road, Christchurch 8051, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Farm livestock and other animals were introduced onto the Auckland Islands during the 19th century. Most were eradicated by the late 20th century, but before then, some goats (Capra aegagrus hircus), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), cattle (Bos taurus) and pigs (Sus scrofa) that were considered to have unique genetic characteristics were taken to mainland New Zealand with a view to studying and maintaining their particular breeds. Goats were liberated on the Auckland Islands on several occasions but those that survived to the late 20th century probably came from a group left on Auckland Island in 1865. In 1986 and 1987 some of these goats were taken to the South Island of New Zealand but were not maintained. Those goats left on Auckland Island were eradicated by 1992. Enderby Island rabbits came from a group of silver-greys that were released there in 1865. Forty-nine of them were captured and taken to Wellington in 1992, the rest were eradicated the following year. Breeding groups representing these rabbits are maintained in New Zealand today, but their numbers remain below the threshold required to ensure survival of the breed. Cattle were taken to the Auckland Islands in 1850 but appear not to have survived. A later introduction onto Enderby Island in 1896 fared better, though their numbers were never great. Semen was taken from 16 bulls at the time of their culling in 1991 and preserved, but oocyte removal from 11 cows at the same time was unsuccessful. A single surviving cow (‘Lady’) and her calf were rescued in 1993, but the calf later died. A number of Lady’s descendants have subsequently been produced in New Zealand through cloning, embryo transfer and natural mating. Pigs had been left on Enderby Island in 1807 and were reported to be on Auckland Island in 1840. Seventeen from Auckland Island were captured in 1999 and brought back to New Zealand where the breed has proved to be a valuable source of medical products.