The first of 10 Kōkako being translocated in Otanewainuku forest were released in Oropi this week.
The Weekend Sun had a camera there to catch the action when the first bird was released from its cage on Tuesday. It was caught earlier in the morning in nearby Kaharoa as part of an Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust kōkako restoration project.
Those involved in the kōkako Recovery Programme say all went like clockwork. There was time for a few pecks at a banana before the female bird was let loose to squirrel her way up the tree limbs of her new territory. Her mate is amongst the other nine kōkako planned to be caught and transferred over a two-week period that started on Tuesday.
The kōkako restoration project is of great significance, Otanewainuku Trust chairman Hans Pendergrast tells. Before the forest was overrun by rats, possums and stoats, kōkako were “extremely abundant”. Every area of forest would have been occupied by a pair of kokako.
“By the 1990s, however, there were none left in Otanewainuku.
“It’s a sad story, repeated all over the North Island. Now kōkako are extinct in all forests where no pest and predator control management is in place,” Hans says.
The North Island kōkako population fell to an estimated 390 pairs by 1999.
“That’s all we had left in a few scattered forest areas. However, pest control had already been started and the population recovered. It now stands at an estimated 1580 pairs.
“It’s a remarkable recovery achievement and Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust is honoured and very proud of the role we now have in that recovery programme”.
In 2010 and 2011 kōkako were reintroduced to Otanewainuku. A census in 2014 revealing there were 26 resident kōkako in the forest. The 10 from Kaharoa will boost that number and the results of another census due next year will be eagerly awaited, Hans says.
“The 10 being introduced this month will be radio tracked for six months so we will know where to start when we are counting next year,” Hans explains.
Amongst those gathered for the momentous event this week was Greg Brownless of the Legacy Trust.
The Trust is the owner of Legacy Funerals and distributes all its profits to worthwhile causes in the Tauranga community. The kokako cause is now included.
Greg says much of his working life has involved being on call… but waiting to be summonsed to attend the release of an endangered bird was “a novel and very special” experience.
“It’s not every day you get to see conservation history in the making. I felt honoured to be part of it”.
“Legacy Trust is committed to financially supporting the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust in its endeavours to restore kōkako. Sometimes we don’t realise the true value of someone or something until it is too late and this kōkako Recovery Programme is ensuring that is not the case with the kōkako in our district.”
Hans says Legacy Trust funding will be used for the protection and ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the kōkako.
“This support is fantastic. Legacy Trust is contributing to the Legacy of Otanewainuku – I like that synergy. And, there is a legacy.”
Hans explains that on two occasions during the 20th century, Otanewainuku locals stood up to protest proposed milling of their forest.
“On both occasions the Crown listened and did not issue milling rights. Back then there was the need to protect the forest from chainsaws. Now the enemy are pests, mainly rats, and it’s now our turn to stand up and protect and restore the legacy of Otanewainuku,” Hans says.
He says the kōkako Recovery Programme is working toward doing exactly that.
Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust is a community, voluntary, conservation charitable trust that aims to protect and restore the Otanewainuku forest. To learn more, or donate to this charitable cause, visit www.kiwitrust.org or contact Hans Pendergrast:
Email - Chair@kiwitrust.org
Phone - 0754321147
Mobile - 02102625220