Christchurch Helicopters Director Richie McCaw, DOC Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki, DOC Eastern South Island Operations Director Andy Roberts, Christchurch Helicopters CEO Terry Murdoch

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


A new partnership between DOC and Christchurch Helicopters to help save our rarest forest bird, the orange-fronted parakeet/kākāriki karaka, was announced at an event in Christchurch today.

Date:  18 October 2017

This bright green parakeet with a distinctive orange band above its beak, numbers just a few hundred and is confined to a few beech-clad valleys in the Canterbury high country and several predator-free islands. 

Christchurch Helicopters Director and pilot Richie McCaw landed the company’s specially painted orange-fronted parakeet helicopter at the Addington Racecourse event, aimed to raise the profile of this little-known bird. 

Christchurch Helicopter Director Richie McCaw.
Christchurch Helicopters Director Richie McCaw

DOC Eastern South Island Operations Director Andy Roberts said the new partnership was an exciting initiative and would help to boost recovery efforts. 

“Orange-fronted parakeets are in serious trouble but with focused conservation efforts and the support of others, we believe we can save the species.

“The partnership with Christchurch Helicopters will directly support activities to enhance the parakeet population and protect it from predators.

“DOC applauds conservation tourism operators like Christchurch Helicopters that choose to give back to nature by helping to conserve our unique wildlife.”  

Christchurch Helicopters CEO Terry Murdoch said the idea to get behind the orange-fronted parakeet came from staff and reflected the company’s values. 

"As CEO of Christchurch Helicopters, I am proud of how our staff have embraced our environmental responsibilities. Our organisation is dedicated to assisting DOC to help it secure the survival of this rare parakeet and create the legacy we wish to leave for future generations.” 

Christchurch Helicopters will support DOC’s work to protect the orange-fronted parakeet by transporting staff, equipment, eggs and birds to and from conservation areas, as well as donating a proportion of customers’ ticket price to specific projects for the species’ recovery. 

The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust is also a key partner with DOC in the orange-fronted parakeet programme and has bred more than 400 parakeets in captivity since 2003 for release on predator-free islands and back into Canterbury valleys. 

The ‘Save Canterbury’s Kākāriki’ event was part of Conservation Week (14-22 October) and this year DOC is trying to get people to convert their love of nature into action.

Background information 

Orange-fronted parakeet/kākāriki karaka were thought to be extinct before being rediscovered in Canterbury in 1993. It’s the rarest of our six parakeet species and is critically endangered with an estimated 100-300 left in the wild.   

This kākāriki was thought to be a colour variation of the more-common yellow-crowned parakeet until about 2000 when genetic analysis confirmed it was a separate species. 

DOC’s work focuses on protecting the parakeet population from predators such as rats and stoats through its Battle for our Birds programme, boosting bird numbers from The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust’s captive breeding programme and maintaining viable insurance populations on several predator-free islands. 

DOC controls predators to low levels in the three main valleys where orange-fronted parakeets are found – the Hawdon, Poulter and Hurunui South Branch – using a combination of traps and aerial 1080 when needed. This year more than 3,000 traps are being added to double the length of trap lines.

Orange-fronted parakeet on Christchurch Helicopters website.


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