The Department of Conservation says that the powelliphanta augustus snails are not faring so well in their new homes. Up to 40% mortality is evident in the new populations established just within the last 2 years.Over 6000 snails have been gathered up and thrown in DOC fridges for the crime of daring to live on top of millions of dollars of coal.These endemic snails have evolved very slowly to live on their coal-laden mountain, and now with their unique habitat destroyed, they face a very uncertain future.
The Stuff article says, “DOC’s goal was to establish at least one self-sustaining population.” Ironically, we had one of them – it was Mt Augustus.
Other relocated snail populations have not fared well either. This scientific report from DOC records the fate of eleven released placostylus hongii snails near Whangarei. All died.
Frog has also learned that the snails remaining in DOC fridges are not mating, which casts doubt on the viability of captive populations. The hatched snails mentioned in the news report must have come from collected eggs.
With relocated populations failing, captive populations not breeding, and insufficient original habitat to retain a viable population, one would have to suggest the species are functionally extinct.
Much of our augustus friends’ home is now greenhouse gas meaning the impact of destroying their home goes way beyond them. The IPCC concluded last year that 20-30% of species may be at risk of extinction from climate change impacts within this century if mean global temperatures exceed 2-3 °C.
With Solid Energy is fuelling the dozers ready for Happy Valley, we stand to lose the powelliphanta patrikensis snails, a world-class wetland, more great spotted kiwi, and release millions more tonnes of carbon. When will we learn?