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Ulva Island Open Sanctuary

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Ulva Island Open Sanctuary

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Birds & Forest – Booking Office
Stewart Island, New Zealand

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Stewart Island, New Zealand
Photograph of Weka: Dave Curtis

Ulva Island, off Stewart Island, is managed as an open sanctuary by the Department of Conservation. The island which is easily accessible, is a relatively unmodified island located in Waka o te Wera, Paterson Inlet. It is an open bird sanctuary which has been free of predators since 1997. In size it is only 266 hectares but has great walking tracks. In 1996, after the island was declared rat-free following an eradication program, birds such as the South Island saddleback, yellowhead, and Stewart Island robin were reintroduced to the island.

The Ulva Island Trust worked with the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird Society and Comalco NZ Ltd, to bring New Zealand's unique, giant, flightless nocturnal parrot to Ulva Island. For ten weeks, until August 12th 2006, Sirocco, a 9 year old Kakapo could be observed at Ulva Island.


Ulva Island was named after the island of the same name in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland by the Shetland Islanders who were settled on Stewart Island in 1872 by the New Zealand government of the day.

Charles Traill opened a Post Office on the island in 1872 and established an extensive garden of introduced trees, some of which can still be seen near the houses. The Post Office made Ulva Island the centre of social life for all of Stewart and its outlying islands.

In the 1880’s, the Tourist Department funded track provision and in 1899, the Island was declared a reserve for the “Preservation of Nature, Game and Flora“.

Ulva Island was visited by early Maori to strip bark from Totara trees to aid the storage of muttonbirds - the sooty shearwater. Many trees on the island with bark patches missing may be seen, some dating back over 200 years.

(page last updated  24 July 2007)