Don Merton Featured

As an officer with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Don Merton roams the forests of the world devising plans to improve the survival of bird species facing extinction. He has contributed to the rescue of more than a dozen, including the Mauritan echo parakeet, the Chatham Islands black robin and the New Zealand saddleback. No other conservationist in the world has been directly involved in as many bird rescue programmes, said Bird Life International, the global agency responsible for bird conservation.

In the Seychelles, he helped devise techniques to save the magpie-robin from extinction. Slow breeders that fed often on the ground, the birds had been decimated by feral cats. By November 1992, despite a successful programme to eradicate predators, their numbers dwindled to 25. Conservationists turned to Merton, and after observing the robins, he discovered that the native vegetation in the birds' habitat had virtually disappeared and the forest did not provide enough safe nesting places. He suggested adjustments to supplementary feeding, positioning of nesting boxes and how to exclude other species from food and nesting sites. Over three years, the species made a spectacular recovery and today there are some 60 robins in existence.

In Australia, Victorian zoologists are using management techniques modelled on Merton's to rescue the helmeted honeyeater. In 1994, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds awarded him a medal for his contribution to species survival.

Additional Info

  • Location:


    c/o Department of Conservation

    P. O. Box 10420

    Wellington, New Zealand

  • Phone Number: (04) 471 3291
  • Fax Number: (04) 471 3291
  • E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Website:

    Don Merton on Wikipedia