Kokako birds are being moved from Kaharoa to Fiordland this week as part of a major translocation operation by the Department of Conservation, enabled by the Kaharoa Kokako Trust.
Kokako captured in Kaharoa will fly on Thursday, 17 September to their new home at Secretary Island in Fiordland by commercial airline.
Kaharoa Kokako Trust ecologist, Carmel Richardson explains that kokako are not able to fly far by themselves, so they need assistance to get into new areas.
“Unfortunately the dispersal of kokako won’t happen naturally as they only fly short distances. Therefore, in order to boost populations in other parts of the country, we need to physically move the birds around.”
Carmel says the Kaharoa Kokako Trust is pleased to be able provide birds for translocation to other parts of the country, to help start new populations or bolster existing ones.
“Due to the pest control work of our volunteers, we have a surplus of kokako at Kaharoa. By protecting the kokako from possums and rats over the past 11 years, we have seen the numbers grow considerably.”
“There are over 60 breeding pairs in the Kaharoa Conservation Area, and many juveniles, representing one of the healthiest kokako populations in the country.”
Carmel has assisted the catching team over the past two weeks to capture kokako using fine mist-nets strung up at carefully selected locations in the forest canopy.
“It is a tricky and highly-specialised job so we are fortunate to have the best people working on the operation,” she says.
The primary focus of the team is to protect the wellbeing of the birds at every stage of their journey.
“The captured birds are being monitored closely to ensure they are healthy and eating well while being held in aviaries. Once they arrive at their new home, they will be released into the wild immediately,” Carmel explains.
The kokako will be escorted during the six hour journey from Rotorua to Secretary Island by Carmel and Department of Conservation staff and local iwi, Ngati Rangiwewehi.
The Kaharoa birds will join a number of other kokako moved to Secretary Island from Mapara, near Te Kuiti, last year.
DOC are also intending to capture kokako in Rotoehu Forest as part of the same operation.
The establishment of kokako on Secretary Island is significant because it marks the return of kokako to the South Island, where they had previously become extinct.
There are currently only 681 known pairs of kokako in existence. As part of the nationwide Kokako Recovery Plan, DOC aims to increase the population of kokako to 1000 pairs by 2020.
The Kaharoa Kokako Trust is seen as a key contributor to this national plan, since the success of the community-based group has seen the local kokako population grow so much that they have birds to spare.
For background information on the Kaharoa Kokako Trust see www.kokako.org.nz
Kaharoa Kokako Trust
+64 7 343 5420
+64 27 285 6356