Manaia’s wayward weka has a mate as second bird discovered
IntroductionThe mystery of Manaia’s wayward weka has deepened with the capture of a second weka discovered in the South Taranaki township.
Date: 19 April 2023
While weka are relatively common in the South Island they’ve not been sighted in Taranaki for decades. Having two weka turn up in the township has DOC staff worried someone is illegally releasing the birds in the area.
Back in December local man Peter Andreoli caught a weka in the small town.
A second weka was seen by Manaia local Jenny Oakley and husband Guy on their farmlet in late March. The pair volunteer at predator free sanctuary Rotokare Scenic Reserve and for the Taranaki Kiwi Trust so understand weka pose a risk to vulnerable wildlife, particularly on Taranaki Maunga.
“I thought there was only one weka and it had been caught,” says Jenny. “But Guy saw the rear end of a weka disappearing through the grass one day.”
Then Jenny heard a weka doing its cooee call down in a swampy area of their farm. Over a period of days, the couple played weka calls off Jenny’s phone and the bird would reply.
But catching the wayward weka was not so easy, Jenny says.
“I talked to DOC and set up a live-catch possum cage with cat nuts and a bit of meat in it, but it (the weka) was pinching the food from between the bars without entering the trap!"
Jenny wasn’t prepared to quit her weka-capture efforts, and altered her tactics based on DOC advice.
“A DOC ranger mentioned weka like going through dark tunnels, so I wrapped the trap up in black cloth.”
The first night Jenny and Guy caught a rat, and the second night they caught a weka.
“It was very healthy looking and quite happy,” she says.
DOC took the weka to Brooklands Zoo and the Oakleys reset the trap as there may be other weka.
Both birds are being cared for off-display at Brooklands Zoo while further DNA tests are undertaken, and a decision is made on where they will be rehomed.
DOC Biodiversity Supervisor Jared Coombes says there may yet be more weka in Manaia.
“We’re continuing to ask locals to keep an eye out and report any weka sightings to us. If they can humanely capture a weka alive, as Jenny and Guy have, that will help us, too. We encourage people to hand over any birds to us immediately, and we’ll take it from there.”
To catch, hold or release wildlife species you must have permission from DOC. Holding or releasing native wildlife can result in fines and or prosecution.
Records show weka were in Taranaki in 1918 but reported to be gone from the region by 1938. An attempt at reintroducing weka to Mt Taranaki in the 1970s was deemed unsuccessful, with one weka turning up at Port Taranaki and no other confirmed sightings. Unconfirmed sightings of weka were reported on the south side of Mt Taranaki in the early 2000s.
Because of their scavenging habit, the weka occupy a problematic conservation niche. They can have predatory impacts on other fauna, especially burrow-nesting seabirds, ground nesting birds, reptiles, and large invertebrates.
If weka were to get on Taranaki Maunga they pose a real risk to the native wildlife while the ecosystems and populations are still in such a recovery phase.
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