Ko¯kako re­turn ‘home’ to Piron­gia

Waikato News - - NEWS - Bethany Rol­ston

It was a mo­men­tous and sa­cred oc­ca­sion when 14 ko¯ kako with Piron­gia lin­eage were re­turned to their “an­ces­tral home” on Satur­day.

Around 60 peo­ple gath­ered at the foothills of Mt Piron­gia at dawn to wit­ness the spe­cial event that was the cul­mi­na­tion of many years of plan­ning, pest con­trol work and iwi con­sul­ta­tion.

It was a huge mile­stone for Piron­gia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restora­tion So­ci­ety, whose found­ing goal in 2002 was to re-es­tab­lish a self-sus­tain­ing ko¯ kako pop­u­la­tion on Mt Piron­gia.

The restora­tion so­ci­ety is now one step closer to reach­ing its goal. In the 1990s the last ko¯ kako were dy­ing out in the Piron­gia area due to in­tro­duced preda­tors and habi­tat loss.

The last ones were caught and trans­ferred to a cap­tive breed­ing pro­gramme in the hopes their genes would sur­vive.

The off­spring of those birds found their way to Tir­i­tiri Ma¯ tangi Is­land and Ka¯ piti Is­land.

It was their de­scen­dants that re­turned to Mt Piron­gia on Satur­day.

The 14 ko¯ kako were cap­tured from Tir­i­tiri Ma¯ tangi Is­land last week and trans­ferred by ferry to Gulf Har­bour.

On Fri­day they were driven in a van to Piron­gia For­est Park Lodge where they stayed overnight un­der the close watch of con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist Kevin Parker.

On Satur­day the birds — six pairs and two ju­ve­nile fe­males — were re­leased by sup­port­ers of the project which in­cluded Taranaki-King Coun­try MP Bar­bara Kuriger and lo­cal pri­mary school stu­dents.

The birds will be mon­i­tored and next year up to 10 more ko¯ kako will be translo­cated to reach a tar­get of 40 founder birds — enough to start a new pop­u­la­tion clus­ter.

Piron­gia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restora­tion So­ci­ety chair­per­son Clare St Pierre says the translo­ca­tion would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the work of the cap­tur­ing team and sup­port of the com­mu­nity, vol­un­teers and fun­ders.

“I’m proud that we have achieved it sim­ply as vol­un­teers who care about our spe­cial maunga,” she says.

“Our pre­cious vol­un­teers have been turn­ing up, year in and year out for our bait­ing and mon­i­tor­ing work.

“What they do is ba­sic but it adds up to a much big­ger and bril­liant out­come — that of bring­ing our maunga back to life.”

Photo / Amanda Rogers

Vol­un­teers, from left, Norma Baker, Kay Mil­ton, Morag Ford­ham and ecol­o­gist Dave Bry­den with ko¯ kako Mi­hipeka, named af­ter au­thor Mi­hipeka Ed­wards.

Photo / Bethany Rol­ston

A crowd gath­ers to wit­ness the re­lease of ko¯ kako on to Mt Piron­gia.

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