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  • Cooper Island Restoration Project Cooper Island Restoration Project

    Dusky Sound, Fiordland National Park

    Cooper Island

    Photo courtesy of Craig Potton

Cooper Island Restoration Project

Turning silence to the sound of birdsong 

In 1773, when Captain James Cook anchored in Dusky Sound, one of New Zealand’s largest and most isolated fiords, it was the landscape and rich bird song that impressed him and his crew. 

DOC - Cooper Island

Cooper Island. Image courtesy Department of Conservation

Today the landscape is unchanged, but when Real Journeys week-long Discovery Expeditions weigh anchor near Cooper Island, passengers are more likely to hear the ‘sound of silence’.  Introduced predators have decimated the millions of birds that once made Dusky Sound their home.   

Real Journeys has undertaken to eliminate the voracious stoats and rats from Cooper Island - a vast 1,779 hectares. Situated in such an inaccessible area of New Zealand, it is the most challenging environmental mission since our founder Sir Les Hutchins led the Save Manapouri Campaign in the 1960s.  

Today we hope our campaign against predators sees the return of some of our most vulnerable native birds like the kākāpō and kiwi and safeguards the future of the third largest island in Dusky Sound.  

The initiative sees Real Journeys join the Department of Conservation’s Tamatea/Dusky Sound Restoration Programme; sharing its vision to make Dusky Sound one of the most intact ecosystems in the world and a source or bio bank, for the regeneration of native species throughout the country.   Real Journeys is proud to play a part to help make this ambitious vision a reality.

A big thanks to Real Journeys for joining DOC and others in supporting a predator free New Zealand. Restoring Cooper Island back to as it pretty much was when Māori and Captain Cook used this magic harbour nearly 250 years ago, is such an inspirational gift to future generations of New Zealanders and international visitors.

Lou Sanson, Director-General, Department of Conservation

Cooper Island Restoration Plan

Cooper image map

Dots represent proposed trap placement on Cooper Island

Eliminating the stoats and rats from this 1,779 ha island is a considerable undertaking. 

The island is 523m high, rugged and steep in parts. 

Tracks must be cut and 320 stoat traps set inland and along the shoreline.  1000 self-resetting Goodnature rat traps will also be laid across the whole island.

Red dots represent stoat traps placed on Cooper Island in 2017 and pink dots are rat traps to be placed in 2018.

We have produced a Cooper Island Restoration Project leaflet to summarise the timescales and plan of action.

New Zealand's first bird sanctuary

Stephen Jaquiery - kakapo

Kakapo. Image courtesy Stephen Jaquiery


As far back as 1891, the government of the day was concerned about declining bird numbers creating the country’s first nature reserve on Resolution Island, the largest island in Dusky Sound. 

New Zealand’s first conservation ranger, Richard Henry, transferred over 700 kākāpō and kiwi to the off shore island to protect them from the wave of introduced predators sweeping the country. 

Sadly by 1900, stoats had been able to swim across to the reserve.  




How we're raising funds

Removing predators from Cooper Island will require at least half a million dollars over the next five years and ongoing maintenance costs thereafter.

  • $100 per person is contributed by Real Journeys from every Discovery Expeditions ticket
  • $500 per person is contributed by Real Journeys from every Conservation Expeditions ticket
  • $100,000 donation from the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation (The foundation was set up in 1994 by Real Journeys founder, Sir Les Hutchins, raising funds from Real Journeys Doubtful Sound trips.)
  • Annual Birds of a Feather Conservation Ball raises funds for Cooper Island Restoration Project
  • $65,000 Real Journeys Birds of a Feather Conservation Ball 2016 (around half the proceeds were earmarked for Cooper Island, the rest for DOC’s Dusky Sound Restoration Project) 

Making a remote island of almost 2,000 hectares pest free isn’t easy or cheap and will take considerable time in fact it will take many years but we’re committed to this and are in it for the long haul.

Richard Lauder, Chief Executive, Real Journeys

The Cooper Island Restoration Project timeframe

  • 2015 Real Journeys funds feasibility study to assess status of plant and animal species and draw up a best practice animal predator control programme
  • 2016 Real Journeys signs agreement with Department of Conservation to fund programme
  • 2017 Set up network of stoat traps around periphery, plus a buffer zone on opposing shoreline of the mainland, to prevent predators from swimming across
  • 2018 A network of tracks marked and cut across inland sections of island.  More stoat traps  added and existing shoreline traps maintained 
  • 2019-20 1000 automatic re-setting Goodnature rat traps across every 100-200m across the island
  • 2021 and beyond  Ongoing trap maintenance work to control predators and protect the native species present
DOC - Cooper Island panorama

The Cooper Island Restoration Project is a partnership between Real Journeys and the Department of Conservation

Real Journeys is involved in other conservation projects - learn more here

Department of Conservation