Our Operations

Breeding Programme and our Legacy

The MFT cares for a small population of injured or otherwise unreleasable New Zealand falcons in our custom-built aviary complex. We currently have three pairs of breeding falcons. We aim to release the offspring from these falcons into the wild so that they can contribute to future generations of falcons in Marlborough. We consider the released falcons a part of our ‘Legacy’ to Marlborough conservation, and hope that these falcons and their offspring will continue to help falcon populations in the region thrive for many years to come. The MFT also supports landowners who continue to care for Legacy falcons in the wild by providing them with food and a network from which to gain advice.

Education and Advocacy

One of the main problems for falcons in New Zealand is that most people do not know how important they are, and some people actually shoot them! Our goal is to make the falcon one of the most well-known animals in Marlborough.
 
Through our education programmes and advocacy work, locals and visitors get the chance to admire the beauty and power of the falcons, and become aware of the important role that falcons play in our natural functioning ecosystem.
 
Our annual school programme is conducted in partnership with DoC, and visits local primary schools with an audiovisual presentation and a live advocacy falcon. School children in Marlborough have not only learnt about New Zealand’s only endemic raptor, they have also seen one up close. The response has been phenomenal, with dozens of schools keen to take part in the annual awareness programme.
 
We also visit local community groups, take part in events such as the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival and Rural Education Activities Programme (REAP) field days, and coordinate open events for members of the public to meet falcons up close, such as our ‘Falcons in the Forum’ days in central Blenheim.
 
For a more personal experience, we have teamed up with the Brancott Estate Heritage Centre to host the Living Lands
 
Tour [LINK] which introduces people to the concept of organic viticulture and explains a bit about the role of falcons in vineyards. Visitors on this tour get the chance to meet an advocacy falcon in a personal setting and to taste the Living Land Series wines, which provides financial support to the MFT.
 
We are working alongside Marlborough Lines to develop a long-term solution to the recently discovered issue of electrocution risk for falcons and other native birds in New Zealand.

Science

Under the direction of Trustee’s Phil Bradfield and Dr. Sara Kross, both of whom have extensive experience in falcon and ecology research, the MFT is committed to ongoing support of falcon research in Marlborough. We are collaborating on projects at both Lincoln and Massey University and have supported the work of Dr. Kross in her PhD at Canterbury University.
 
We believe that everyone can participate in science, so we are encouraging citizen scientists in the Marlborough region and around New Zealand to assist us in our work by reporting falcon sightings here (LINK). This data will be used to help track falcon population trends in Marlborough and any sightings from outside of the region will be added to long-term data sets maintained by the Raptor Association of New Zealand.
 
We have also initiated a programme with Marlborough Boy’s College to give students hands-on experience with data collection and falcon diet analysis. We will develop relationships with the Marlborough Girls College and Queen Charlotte College to take part in similar projects in the future.
 

History of the Marlborough Falcon Trust

In 2005, a programme called Falcon For Grapes was established in Marlborough by Dr Nick Fox of International Wildlife Consultants (UK) Ltd. (Link)
 
Having completed his PhD on the New Zealand Falcon back in the 1970’s, Nick was horrified to discover 30 years later, that falcon numbers had severely declined in the Marlborough region.
 
He wanted to do something that would help to restore numbers and bring the falcon back on the province’s Wairau Plains – where once they had flown in abundant numbers.
 
The synergy between Marlborough’s growing wine industry and the falcon’s unprecedented ability to keep pest bird numbers down, saw him establish the Falcon for Grapes Programme. If he could increase falcon numbers around the vineyards, growers and wineries would not need to spend thousands of
dollars on bird scaring devices.
 
With DOC support, and funding from the New Zealand Winegrowers and a Sustainable Farming Fund grant, a number of young chicks were relocated from the wild, housed in nesting barrels in close proximity to vineyards and given a second chance at life.
 
Later, after the conclusion of the SSF funding grant, International Wildlife Consultants (UK) Ltd and the Emirates Falconers Club came to the rescue, providing enough funds to ensure the programme continued.It was out of this scenario that the locally-run Marlborough Falcon Trust (MFT) was established in 2008.
 
For our first 2 years the trust focused on education and advocacy work and on providing local support for the Falcons For Grapes Programme. In 2011, Falcons For Grapes was wrapped up, and in August 2011 the Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust took over care of the captive falcons and support for the landowners feeding released falcons. In February 2012 the captive falcons were moved from the IWC aviaries in Renwick, and into the purpose-built MFT aviary complex in the Brancott valley. Visit our ‘Current Operations’ page to read more about what are now working on.