Kakapo released on Little Barrier Island
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.