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May 2011 Issue
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Bird saviour dies

Don Merton, bird saviour.

The conversation pioneer who led the fight to save both the kakapo and the black robin from extinction died on April 10 at age 72 from pancreatic cancer in his Tauranga home.

Don Merton began working for what was then called the Wildlife Service at 18 and went on to become a senior member of DOC’s scientific staff prior to his retirement in 2005.

After Merton was diagnosed with the illness his wife Margaret cared for him in their Tauranga home until he died.

During his life, Merton was involved in the recovery of many bird species and developed innovative techniques to help threatened species.

His revolutionary methods brought the black robin back from a single female on a remote island in the Chathams to a flourishing population of more than 200 today.

He also led the team responsible for discovering the last kakapo in Fiordland and managing their recovery through an innovative breeding programme on protected islands.

Al Morrison, Director General of DOC, said Merton was a remarkable conservationist: “It’s not many of us who play a pivotal role in pulling an entire species back from the brink – Don did three times. The techniques he developed became the blueprint for much of DOC’s work with threatened species.”