Kakapo re­leased on Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - DELWYN DICKEY

Four crit­i­cally en­dan­gered kakapo have trav­elled al­most the length of the coun­try in a day to be re­leased on Hau­turu - Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land.

Once found in forests through­out the coun­try, the birds were dev­as­tated by pests such as stoats, rats and cats.

With just 153 of these noc­tur­nal par­rots left, Kakapo have been con­sid­ered one of New Zealand’s rarest birds.

The trip was a home­com­ing for two of the birds that once called the is­land home.

Con­sid­ered some­thing of a stud in the re­pro­duc­tive de­part­ment, there were hopes a kakapo called Blade would be able to work his magic on the is­land.

Blades has fa­thered 22 chicks and lived on Hau­turu from 1982 to 1999.

The re­turn of Wendy was also a poignant mo­ment for Wark­worth-based heli­copter pi­lot Roger Steven­son.

His father flew Wendy Hau­turu in 1982.

Roger took Wendy off the is­land in 1998 and flew her back again.

Af­ter fly­ing into Whenua Hou - Cod­fish Is­land the pre­vi­ous night, mem­bers of the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s Kakapo Re­cov­ery Team and Ngai Tahu started out be­fore day­light to round up five of to the birds.

One bird scam­pered high up into a rata tree and re­fused to budge.

Dr An­drew Digby said the other bird will be sent north at a later date.

The four birds went by heli­copter to In­ver­cargill, then to Christ- church and Auck­land via com­mer­cial flights.

They were fi­nally flown by heli­copter to Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land.

A small pop­u­la­tion has also been re-es­tab­lished on Hau­turu in the Hau­raki Gulf since 2012 in an ef­fort to get a breed­ing pop­u­la­tion up and run­ning.

The birds would not need the ex­tra care and sup­ple­men­tary feed­ing south­ern birds get.

Their life span gave am­ple op­por­tu­nity for pro­duc­ing but the birds would only breed when there was plenty of food around.

In the south, rimu trees pro­duce a lot of fruit, which saw a bumper crop of 32 chicks last year.

Re­searchers were not sure what trig­gered breed­ing on Hau­turu as there were not any Rimu trees.

The is­land should even­tu­ally be able to sup­port 100 birds, Digby said.

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