World Sand Dune Day A timely reminder for pet parents
As we celebrate World Sand Dune Day on June 25th, it is an opportune time to think about the care and preservation of our own precious coastline which is home to so much wildlife.
“New Zealand’s sand dunes offer such beautiful scenery,” says Michelle Le Long of pet insurance specialist PD Insurance (pd.co.nz), “but far more importantly, they are sanctuaries for an incredible variety of animals and plants that can’t survive anywhere else.
“World Sand Dune Day is an important reminder that we all need to work together to help preserve these fragile habitats – and part of that is being responsible pet parents who keep our dogs and cats in check. .”
Sand dunes are our natural barrier to the sea and if well maintained they provide protection against coastal hazards and erosion. Not to mention hosting a range of valuable native wildlife.
Unfortunately, the sand dunes are one of the most degraded landscapes in New Zealand. Large areas of dunes have been altered for residential development, roads, farmland, and forestry, resulting in significant loss of native vegetation, increased weed growth, and dune erosion.
Coastal development has also contributed to a severe decline in native bird populations that depend on dunes for habitat and breeding, Le Long says.
“Allowing our off-leash mutts to run wild in the dunes causes chaos among the birds while degrading the natural vegetation. There are many recorded incidents of uncontrolled domestic dogs killing – accidentally or otherwise – large numbers of coastal birds. And cats, being born hunters, flush out chicks like the New Zealand Dotterel which lays its eggs in open, low areas in or near sand dunes.
‘Do not disturb’ the dotterel
Laura Boren, science adviser to the Department of Conservation, says the once common dotterel is now more endangered than some kiwi species, with only around 2,500 birds remaining.
“Because they blend into the environment, the nests are easily destroyed by the feet of bathers, dogs and all-terrain vehicles,” she says. “When adults are disturbed during incubation and leave the nest, the eggs may overheat. When young chicks are disturbed, they may die of exhaustion as they cannot reach their feeding grounds at the edge of the nest. water.
Boren points out that unchecked dogs crossing nesting areas can crush eggs, disturb nesting adults and kill chicks. “Many beaches have dog restrictions and owners should be aware of and adhere to them. Go online to https://www.doc.govt.nz//parks-and-recreation//know-before-you-go//dog-access to see what the rules are for dogs,” he advises. -she.
Walk on wet sand
Since many of our coastal species roost or nest in sand dunes, walking your dog on wet sand means you’ll be more likely to avoid sensitive shorebird nesting areas, Boren says.
“Not only should you and your dog stick to wet sand, which birds are less likely to inhabit, but be aware that it’s a legal requirement to have a leash with you in public even if you’re not using it. If you see wild animals in front of you, put your dog’s leash on and pass at least 20 meters away.
Actions taken by DOC to restore New Zealand’s precious sand dunes and shorebirds include:
• Sites containing new plantings to prevent dune erosion are delineated and marked.
• Live cat traps are used in areas around some sand dune breeding sites and are checked regularly.
• At key sites, DOC wardens inform the public of nesting areas.
• There is a DOC hotline available – 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) – which you can call immediately if you see a dog harming native wildlife.
Responsibilities of Doggie Parents
Part of being a responsible dog owner means always keeping your pet under control.
“The easiest way to do this,” says Boren, “is to always walk them on a leash near fragile ecosystems such as sand dunes. If you encounter wildlife, take your dog and warn others on the scene. If you see a New Zealand Dotterel faking an injury (it can “drag” a wing as if it were broken), it means it has a nest or chicks nearby, so move away slowly and carefully.
“Stay out of the marked areas and follow the DOC signage, and you’ll be doing our delicate dunes and birds a big favor.”
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