Kokako set to flourish
A 20-year war waged against rats and possums have seen a Waikato population of kokako reach a new milestone in genetic strength.
A survey of North Island kokako in the northern Pureora Forest east of Te Kuiti found more than 500 individual birds. It is the first kokako population considered by Department of Conservation staff as genetically robust
Kokako specialist Tertia Thurley said the latest head count marks a significant period.
‘‘We can start to safely harvest birds from there to establish new populations without impacting on our Pureora population,’’ Thurley said.
For two decades, volunteers have culled predator numbers in the Mangatutu, Tunawaea and Okahukura valleys of the Rangitoto Range.
Volunteer group, Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, received funding in 2015 to protect a remnant kokako flock at Okahukura which allowed the separate bird populations to merge.
They started pest control in Okahukura last year.
Connecting the Waipapa Valley on the eastern side of the range near Mangakino is the next target.
‘‘That gives us a really huge population that is and will be the strongest population in the country.’’
Keeping the predator numbers down gives the kokako a chance of successful breeding seasons and prevents a genetic bottleneck leading to greater genetic diversity and reduced chance of genetic disease.