The Kākāpō Recovery Team, 2018

Image: Nichollette Brown | DOC

Introduction

Meet the people at the coal-face of Kākāpō Recovery.

Highlights

The Kākāpō Recovery Team has ten staff:

  • Four rangers maintain a continual presence on the kākāpō islands in a revolving roster.
  • Seven specialists shuttle between the islands and an Invercargill office.

The Kākāpō Recovery Group advises the team.

The team

  • Operations Manager: Deidre Vercoe
  • Scientific Advisor: Dr Andrew Digby
  • Technical Advisor: Daryl Eason
  • Senior Ranger: Dr Jodie Crane
  • Supervisor: Karen Andrew
  • Kākāpō Field Rangers: Freya Moore, Jake Osborne, Sara Larcombe
  • Kākāpō Ranger, Site Management and Logistics: Theo Thompson
  • Kākāpō Ranger, Advocacy and Logistics: Bronwyn Jeynes

Deidre Vercoe: Operations Manager, Kākāpō and Takahē

Deidre Vercoe.
Deidre Vercoe
Image: DOC 

“Being the Operations Manager for kākāpō and takahē keeps me absolutely flat-out busy, but it’s a rewarding challenge, helping to steer the direction for both recovery programmes – and the team is simply awesome to work with!” Deidre Vercoe

Not many people would be keen to walk rough island tracks while eight months pregnant but, along with other members of the Kākāpō Team, Deidre is happy to live and breathe Kākāpō Recovery.

She holds everything and everyone together. She also has a technical support role, keeping up to speed with bird monitoring programmes and helping to implement research objectives.

During breeding seasons, she spends more time on the islands, involved with artificial inseminations, nest management and any artificial incubation and hand rearing.

Deidre started her involvement with Kākāpō Recovery in 2002 as a kākāpō ranger. She loved the hands-on work on the islands and living with other team members and volunteers. She took up a technical support role in the team in 2005. She became Operations Manager in 2008. Following a departmental restructure, Deidre took on the challenge of managing not one, but two complex endangered species programmes in 2013.

Dr Andrew Digby: Scientific Advisor

Andrew Digby.
Dr Andrew Digby
Image: Veronika Meduna ©

“It’s every conservation biologist’s dream – the application of a wide variety of scientific fields and methods to make a real difference to the survival of an endangered species.” Andrew Digby

Andrew is the team’s scientist. He provides scientific advice to guide our conservation efforts. He reviews research, organises data collection, designs field trials and crunches the numbers using statistical analyses and modelling.

Kākāpō research topics are varied: from supplementary feeding to tree phenology, avian diseases to artificial insemination and reproductive behaviour to genetics. Andrew also liaises with the many external experts who contribute to these areas. 

He isn’t confined to a desk, and loves fieldwork. “Collecting data and observing a species in the field is an important part of conservation research. It’s very hard to fully understand behaviour and appreciate the conservation issues without seeing them first hand.”

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @takapodigs 
Contact: adigby@doc.govt.nz

Daryl Eason: Technical Advisor

Daryl Eason with a kakapo.
Daryl Eason
Image: Andrew Digby | DOC 

“It’s exciting and full on. I find it a real challenge. And coming back to see the birds after they’ve been released into the wild is great. It’s so good to see them living as normal birds doing normal things, and not being dependent on humans anymore.” Daryl Eason

Daryl is our stand-by ‘surrogate mum’. He’s responsible for the artificial incubation and hand-rearing of any chicks or eggs that might not survive in the wild. Between breeding seasons, he oversees the ongoing management of the kākāpō population.

Each rescue is an intensive period. Daryl provides the birds with all the care and nurturing their mothers would give them. Then he teaches them how to fend for themselves in the wild.

Daryl says the skills of bird rearing come naturally to him. “It’s just something that I’ve always been interested in and wanted to do, and seem to be good at doing.”

Dr Jodie Crane: Senior Ranger

Jodie Crane.
Dr Jodie Crane
Image: James Savage © 

Jodie moved to New Zealand to join the team in 2018. As Senior Ranger, she will be supporting the Kākāpō Recovery Team in its technical, scientific and management work to ensure that recovery goals are achieved.

She has a background in both research and conservation, and a life-long passion for birds. In the past she has worked on diverse topics in ornithology, including behavioural ecology, bioacoustics, biotelemetry and cognition. Her experience in the field has enabled her to develop a range of technical skills and knowledge that she looks forward to applying in her role.

Jodie first came to New Zealand in 2007 as an international student at the University of Auckland, where she was inspired by the work of Kākāpō Recovery, and the innovative methods used to manage the population. She is delighted to join the team and contribute to the conservation of this iconic species.

Karen Andrew: Supervisor

Karen Andrew.
Karen Andrew
Image: DOC 

“I’m excited to be back in the team again in a supervisor role. My focus will be implementing the Kākāpō Recovery workplan and providing support to the island rangers.” Karen Andrew

Karen spent the 2016/17 season working for DOC's tier one national vegetation monitoring team and taking part in occasional kiwi monitoring trips.

She joined the team in 2014 as an island ranger. She’d previously worked five years as an eradication dog handler, including two years on the Macquarie Island rabbit eradication and a stint on Isla Choros in Chile.

Field Rangers

Field rangers.
Kākāpō Field Rangers Sara Larcombe, Jake Osborne and Freya Moore
Image: Bronwyn Jeynes | DOC

Field Rangers undertake the physical work required to implement our objectives. For a month at a time, they work, eat and sleep on the kākāpō islands.

The hours are long, the terrain is demanding, and the weather is wild. Good fitness is a must have. Our three field rangers are dedicated to their jobs and never complain – to them, it’s a great way to live.

A large part of the job involves using radio telemetry to locate and monitor the kākāpō. In summer, they manage the supplementary feeding and supervise any volunteers. Rainy day jobs include database management, reporting and hut maintenance.

Freya Moore: Kākāpō Field Ranger

As island rangers, we live and breathe the job. Every day, we wake up and go to work in some of the most beautiful, remote, and untouched corners of this country! It can be tough going, but it’s totally worth it when you see eggs being laid, chicks growing into strong adults and the kākāpō population growing.” Freya Moore

Freya volunteered with Kākāpō Recovery during 2016 before becoming a temporary field ranger. She re-joined the team in 2018 after returning to uni to complete her masters on South Island robins.

She worked mainly on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou – a short 20-minute flight from Invercargill. She says her commute to work has to be one of the best out there: “The small fixed-wing plane skirts alongside Rakiura and then comes in to land on the Whenua Hou runway: Sealer’s Bay beach!”

Jake Osborne: Kākāpō Field Ranger

“I love working in the outdoors, and to do so with such a unique and charismatic species is a real privilege. It can be tough to be away from home so much, but it helps when you’ve got great friends and teammates out there with you.” Jake Osborne

Jake began working with us in the 2016 breeding season, and joined the Kākāpō Recovery Team permanently when long-serving ranger Tim moved on.

He began his DOC career as a volunteer on Stewart Island/Rakiura after leaving his job as a Senior 3D Modeller in Christchurch. He sometimes puts those old GIS and modelling skills to use for the team, and provides many of the fantastic images we use.

Jake’s photos on Flickr

Sara Larcombe, Kākāpō Field Ranger

“It’s a privilege to work in places where species like kākāpō, mohua, pāteke, and tawaki – largely unknown on the mainland – become unavoidable.” Sara Larcombe

Sara joined the team in 2017. In her first couple of months, she honed her radio tracking skills and learned how to perform health checks and transmitter changes on kākāpō.

It’s not all kākāpō-related work – she’s been involved with a translocation of South Island tīeke, and spent a few weeks working with takahē at the Burwood Takahē Centre.

Before joining us, Sara studied zoology and spent time on Kapiti Island Nature Reserve as a nature guide, counting frigatebirds on Christmas Island, monitoring a fairy prion colony in Dunedin and volunteering with Kākāpō Recovery.

Theo Thompson: Kākāpō Ranger, Site Management and Logistics

Theo Thompson.
Theo Thompson
Image: Kimbery Collins © 

“I’m really looking forward to working on new technology and infrastructure with a team of dedicated conservationists.” Theo Thompson

Theo makes sure our island infrastructure and gear is fit for purpose to support our critical work.

He became a Ranger Cadet with DOC in Fiordland after graduating from the Trainee Ranger Programme at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. He spent three years as a kākāpō island ranger and loved every minute of it.

Theo is particularly captivated by the individuality of kākāpō and their behaviours.

Bronwyn Jeynes: Kākāpō Ranger, Advocacy and Logistics

Bronwyn Jaynes.
Bronywn Jeynes transports a couple of kākāpō chicks
Image: Sabine Bernert ©

Bronnie answers emails, mans our Facebook page and organises adoption packages. She talks to students, teachers and the media to make sure the kākāpō story is told.

She helps us with various other tasks: everything from writing up minutes to paying the bills, and sorting out samples to accompanying kākāpō during transfers.

Bronnie loves getting out in the field too. Her highlight so far has been learning to care for hand-reared chicks, and showing them to school groups and the public.

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