Kākā
PHOTO: Sabine Bernert ©

Introduction

Project Kākā aims to restore the diverse native forest bird, insect and plant communities in Tararua Forest Park.

Through an intensive 10 year pest control and monitoring programme, DOC and other organisations and volunteers are working together to target species that are the biggest threat to native bird life and forest systems.

The project is named for the iconic native parrot the kākā, plentiful on nearby Kapiti Island and at Pukaha Mount Bruce, and representative of the many species that are expected to become more abundant as a result of this programme.

This initiative began in 2009 and covers a 22,000 ha area from Otaki Forks to Holdsworth campground. View map of Project Kākā zone (JPG, 279K).

The Project Kāka zone covers the most used areas of the park, so that as many people as possible will experience the expected improvement in forest health and increase in bird life. It includes a diverse range of forest types including fertile river valleys and higher altitude beech, kāmahi and fuchsia forests.

Effect of pests on native species 

  • Possums are mainly vegetarians, but eat the flowers, fruits and leaves of plants that are key food sources for many native birds and invertebrates. They also eat bird eggs and fledglings, as well as invertebrates.
  • Stoats are a key predator of many birds, particularly when they're nesting as they eat the eggs.
  • Rats are also a constant source of predation, especially for the smaller forest birds such as bellbirds, robins, riflemen and fantails.

About the project

A possum attacks a bird’s nest. Photo: David Mudge.
A possum attacks a bird’s nest

1080 bait pellets are distributed by GPS-guided helicopter throughout the operational area (see map) in spring every 3 years, starting in 2010.

Project Kākā is also intensively monitoring changes in the adjacent forest areas over a 10 year period and comparing them to changes in the Project Kākā zone to learn more about how to improve pest management in the park.

About 1080

Fuchsia excorticata. Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.
Fuchsia

1080 is an effective toxin for pests such as possums, rats and stoats and is particularly suited because the area to be treated in this operation covers a huge landscape of remote and rugged terrain, making ground control impractical. It is estimated that controlling possums alone, using ground control, would cost at least 3 times as much and would leave many areas untreated.

The use of GPS technology in helicopters allows for even coverage of bait and accurate placing of 1080 within the operational area boundaries, avoiding sensitive areas such as huts or water intakes. Overall, this results in better pest management and less risk to visitors to the area.

1080 is biodegradable so does not accumulate in the environment or persist in soil or water. In favourable conditions, soil micro organisms break down 1080 in about two weeks.

Results

Intensive monitoring undertaken by DOC, TBfree New Zealand, Landcare Research and Greater Wellington Regional Council since Project Kākā was initiated has shown significant drops in pest numbers and increasing populations of some native bird species.

Counts of riflemen, whiteheads and kākāriki increased following the first 1080 operation in 2010, compared to the non-treatment area where no 1080 was applied. These species are able to breed quickly but are also very vulnerable to predation. They can give us an early indication if pest control is working.

Progress reports

Progress report to 2013 (PDF, 1,005K)
This report summarises the results of Project Kākā pest animal and bird monitoring programmes between 2009 and 2013.

Project background and progress report 2010–2011 report (PDF, 5330K)
The report outlines the rationale for Project Kākā, and summarises the results of activities over the first two years – 2010 and 2011.

Likely outcomes

As we collect more data over the 10 year term of the project, the effect of 1080 on forest birds and pest animals in Tararua Forest Park will become clearer. We may also start to see positive changes in bird counts for slower breeding species, such as kākā, which is likely to be boosted by the arrival of birds from nearby strongholds on Kapiti Island and at Pukaha Mount Bruce.

North Island kākā . Photo: Ross Henderson.
North Island kākā

If sustained pest control can be achieved, it may be possible to reintroduce locally extinct birds including robins, whio (blue duck) and kiwi.

Trampers in the Atiwhakatu Valley, Tararua Forest Park. Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.
Trampers in the Atiwhakatu Valley,
Tararua Forest Park

The same method is being used to monitor weta numbers (though not a pest species!). Deer densities are being assessed based on faecal pellet counts.

How you can help


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