Introduction

The release of five juvenile kaka bred at Wellington Zoo into the Pukaha Mount Bruce forest this week will boost the gene pool of the existing population... but the newcomers may have to learn the local lingo.

Date:  23 April 2010

The release of five juvenile kaka bred at Wellington Zoo into the Pukaha Mount Bruce forest this week will boost the gene pool of the existing population... but the newcomers may have to learn the local lingo.

The Pukaha kaka population has swelled to 100 since the first reintroduction of nine birds in 1996, after a 50 year absence of kaka from the forest.

“This is the first time they have been joined by offspring from Wellington Zoo,” says Department of Conservation captive management ranger Raelene Berry.

Kaka from Wellington Zoo are released at Pukaha Mount Bruce. Image: Rosemary Vander Lee.
Kaka from Wellington Zoo are released at
Pukaha Mount Bruce

“These birds are not related to any of the original nine founders, so they will increase the genetic diversity of the population and help the long-term survival of kaka in the forest.”

The transfer is part of the co-operative conservation breeding programme across New Zealand, says captive management programme manager Rosemary Vander Lee.

Staff have noticed that the calls made by the Wellington kaka sound slightly different to those made by kaka in the Pukaha forest.

“Hopefully the different dialect won’t be too much of a problem as they are young enough to pick up the Pukaha lingo, and may be able to teach the locals some new calls as well,” says Ms Berry.

The kaka from Wellington Zoo were held in an aviary near the wild kaka feedstation area for a month to allow them some interaction with the wild population before release. They also fed from a feed station in the aviary identical to the ones at the wild kaka feed station area, to become familiar with the supplementary food prior to release.

The wild kaka are fed supplementary food from the feed stations at the National Wildlife Centre daily at 3pm, which also gives staff the chance to monitor the birds and for visitors to view their antics at the feed stations and in the surrounding trees. Like all the kaka released at Pukaha Mount Bruce the newcomers were banded with unique combinations of coloured leg bands so they can be easily identified after release.

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