"Cameras Roll on Maungatautari"
Still being established, Maungatautari Ecological Island is already considered a world leader, reports Lucy Reed.
Waikato Times
By Lucy Reed
Wednesday, 18 January 2006

An American conservation filmmaker says Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust leads the world in mainland islands and he wants to show it to the world.

Michael Tobias has made more than 100 films and is currently shooting a two-hour film called Hot Spots, showcasing locations around the world where endangered species and "fragmented habitat are most severe", but where people and governments are rallying to prevent extinction.

Mr Tobias and his wife Jane Morrison are filming 18 locations around the country.

"One could film forever here. It's just the nature of a region with biodiversity."

He said the mainland island was a critical concept as a way to put endangered species together in a predator-free area to "revivify a gene pool".

This was particularly important when species numbers had dwindled and become increasingly inbred, causing problems which threatened their survival.

"A mainland island is the first step. The second step is connecting the islands to allow the natural movement of species and inter-breeding."

This was a vision for conservation worldwide and Mt Maungatautari could serve as a stellar example, he said.

"So we are here to learn from Maungatautari and hopefully capture the spirit of that and convey that to our world.

"This is a place that I think will provide parents and children the time to get what conservation means.

"New Zealand is in a state of ecological crisis and the good thing is that New Zealand realises that."

The film is being produced by Dancing Star Foundation, a non- profit organisation devoted to international biodiversity, conservation, environmental education and animal welfare. Mr Tobias is the organisation's president.

Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust chief executive Jim Mylchreest described the level of exposure the mountain would get from the film as "priceless".

"It was an honour to be picked to be part of this project and we are delighted to be acknowledged by Michael as a world leader."

Kiwi are now being heard on the mountain for the first time in 100 years, after the release of three birds from the Otorohanga Kiwi House into the southern enclosure in early November and four into the northern enclosure in July.