2012 New Zealand Annual Coin: Fairy Tern
For many animals, life on planet Earth is a daily struggle for survival - and for some, population numbers are so low that they're in danger of disappearing altogether. Such is the story of the New Zealand fairy tern, a tiny, critically endangered bird that's the subject of this very special $5 coin.
Produced by New Zealand Post just once a year, the $5 coin is dedicated to highlighting the plight of New Zealand’s endangered animals. The 2012 coin is a finely crafted work of art that’s available both on its own and as the splendid centrepiece to a complete set of New Zealand currency coins.
The ‘hero’ of the collection is the New Zealand fairy tern (Sternanereis davisae; ‘tara-iti’ in Māori). This compact creature, which as an adult is only 20 centimetres long and a mere 70 grams in weight, is our rarest and most critically threatened bird. Once found around the coast of the North and eastern South Islands, it’s now confined to the lower half of the Northland Peninsula, with just 43 individuals, including 12 breeding pairs, remaining.
Sustained mainly by a diet of small fish gathered from shallow estuaries, New Zealand fairy terns make their nests on exposed, low-lying areas of shell-covered sand. Today, the birds’ habitat is in increasingly short supply due to development, predators and extreme weather.
In 1983 the New Zealand fairy terns were on the verge of extinction. The then New Zealand Wildlife Service leapt into action by fencing off nesting sites and appointing wardens to monitor the delicate situation. Eight years later – and after a satisfying turnaround in the tern population – the New Zealand Fairy Tern Recovery Programme was established. Its aims are clear: to prevent the extinction of the New Zealand species; to increase the breeding population by 25 per cent by 2015; to improve the tern’s conservation status from Category A (endangered) to Category B (threatened); and to expand its breeding range beyond the existing area.
The future for the New Zealand fairy tern is now looking bright. Thanks to the Department of Conservation and a committed team of volunteers, six to nine pairs are breeding each season. Hopes are high that, with luck and good management, the New Zealand fairy tern will maintain its hold in this beautiful land we share.
Celebrating a decade of distinction
All the coins in this annual issue are New Zealand legal tender, and for the first time the $5 coin features the scientific name of the featured species. Minted by the Royal Dutch Mint, they are available in strictly limited quantities, assuring all who acquire them of their quality, prestige and collectable value.