Kokako set to flour­ish

South Waikato News - - Community Cookbook - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN

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.

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