In the mid 1990s DOC and the Auckland Regional Council started a joint project to protect the remaining population of 21 North Island kōkako in the Hunua Ranges (1,500 survive throughout New Zealand). In 1994 the only remaining breeding female in Hunua fledged 3 chicks, heralding a new era of recovery. The population has grown slowly with the protection of nests from predators and close monitoring of nesting birds.
The Department of Conservation's third North Island Kōkako Recovery Plan emphasises management of the species on the New Zealand mainland.
Good husbandry of existing populations and restoration of kōkako to parts of their former range are key features of this plan.
Transmitter being attached to a
captive North Island kōkako before
being released, Boundary Stream
Research focuses on increasing knowledge of the species to facilitate and increase efficiency of management.
The "research by management" programme which compared kōkako survival and productivity in three central North Island forests, has demonstrated that intensive management of introduced mammals can result in rapid expansion of kōkako populations.
At Mapara reserve in the King Country the total population has more than doubled in seven years between 1992-1999, but, more importantly, the female population has increased at least nine times over the same period! At least 110 adult birds were counted and many others sighted.
Similar techniques have been applied to locally threatened populations in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, East Coast and Bay of Plenty, where the birds are now increasing significantly.
A large, self-sustaining population has established on Little Barrier Island from translocations which took place during the early 1980s. This has been used, together with kōkako from other locations, to create a new island population on Kapiti Island.
A third island population was begun on Tiritiri Matangi Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, during 1998. At least five pairs are now breeding on Kapiti and one pair on Tiritiri.
Kōkako are held in captivity at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre (Mount Bruce, near Masterton) and at Otorohanga Kiwi House (Waikato). Rearing techniques have been developed and will be used in an attempt to prevent the extinction of some local sub-populations. Offspring will be released on island sites such as Tiritiri Matangi until sufficient numbers are held to allow reintroductions to protected mainland sites in the future.
Video about saving the kōkako from extinction