Ko¯kako re-established on Mount Pirongia
The next phases of establishing a selfsustaining population of ko¯kako on Mt Pirongia begins later this month.
Last year the first ko¯kako were released on the maunga as the first step in returning the songbird to a location where it was once plentiful.
The 20 birds came from Waipapa in Northern Pureora Forest and in the first wave of translocations this year 10 Waipapa birds sourced from that location.
Then around mid-July, up to 14 ko¯kako from Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf are planned to be transferred to Mt Pirongia and a permit for this has just been secured from the Department of Conservation.
Society chairperson Clare St Pierre is thrilled about the prospect.
“These ko¯kako are descendants of the original population of birds that once lived on the maunga, so releasing them on Mt Pirongia will be hugely significant,” she says.
“Interestingly, the first research work nationally on the plight of the ko¯kako was probably done on the southern side of Mt Pirongia in the 1960s and it was from this area that the last remaining were captured in the 1990s so they could be part of a breeding programme to prevent their DNA from dying out.
“How fitting that their descendants are now being given a safe home back on that same maunga.”
A number of people involved in that early work are still in the Waikato area, such as Alan Saunders with Waikato Regional Council, Gerry Kessels from Te Pahu¯ and Tony Roxburgh with Waipa¯ District Council.
The society is also grateful to all those who have made this achievement possible, especially Waikato Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Pacific Development and Conservation Fund, Leo Koppens, EB Firth Family Trust and Pu¯ rekireki Marae.
The society’s project to return ko¯ kako will be the subject of an educational video this year for primary and secondary school children as an example of local environmental action.
Produced by LEARNZ and co-funded by WWF, Waipa¯ District Council and Waikato Regional Council, it will form the basis of a virtual field trip and webinar which is expected to engage over 3000 New Zealand school children.
Of the ko¯ kako released on Mt Pirongia last year, 16 of the original 20 have been located and all but one of them were inside the low pest area managed by the society.
Two pairs nested successfully and three chicks from one nest were banded. Unfortunately, none of the banded chicks could be located at the time they were expected to fledge.
Monitoring of all the ko¯kako will be continued as part of the translocation requirements for the project.
Further translocations of ko¯kako are planned in 2019 to bring the total number of ko¯kako released to 40, the minimum number of founders needed for a new and genetically robust population.
For further information about the society and volunteering opportunities, contact Clare St Pierre on 027 324 8195, go to www.mtpirongia.org.nz or find the society on Facebook.
ECOLOGIST Dave Bryden and Tertia Thurley of the Department of Conservation holding a ko¯ kako immediately after capture.
BANDED ko¯ kako on Mt Pirongia.