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Whitehead release a milestone for Ark in the Park

Whitehead release a milestone for Ark in the Park

A significant milestone in the Ark in the Park project will see 40 whiteheads released in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park next week.

Ark in the Park is a partnership project between the Auckland Regional Council and Waitakere Branch of Forest and Bird. The project aims to create a predator free "mainland island" in the northern area of the Waitakere Ranges as a haven for native species.

Ark in the Park spokesman John Sumich says the tiny whiteheads are the first in a number of native bird species, which will be reintroduced to the Waitakere Ranges as part of this project.

"With a significantly large are of predator control achieved, the stage is set for further releases with robins scheduled for late March next year," Dr Sumich says.

"The quality of this botanically diverse, deer-free bush is such that the site is a prime contender for a mainland release of stitchbird when the controlled area reaches a certain minimum size. This will require more volunteer effort but we have shown it is possible."

Dr Sumich says other species which could follow include kaka, bellbird and kokako with kiwi on the list in the longer term. Missing elements of flora and fauna which are tipped to be returned are the green mistletoe and wood rose [dactylanthus] as well as the Helm's and yellow admiral butterflies.

ARC Parks and Heritage Committee Chairman Bill Burrill says the whitehead release has been made possible by the fantastic work volunteers have put in.

"I congratulate the many community volunteers have put in hours of hard work on this project, trapping and removing pests from the forest in preparation for the whitehead release," Cr Burrill says.

Cr Burrill says the volunteers' pest control will build on the extremely successful work the ARC has done reducing possum numbers in the Waitakere Ranges through Operation Forestsave.

"The forest in the Waitakere Ranges is already much healthier than it was five years ago and the numbers of tui, kereru and fantails are increasing dramatically," he says.

"The Ark in the Park, through the work of the volunteers, will add to this success and create a fantastic sanctuary of native wildlife which visitors will be able to enjoy for generations to come."

The whiteheads will be released into the Ark in the Park project area at Cascade Kauri, Falls Rd, Waitakere at 2pm on Friday 27 August.

The whitehead (popokatea) is a native forest bird, which has survived in other parts of the North Island. It had become extinct on the mainland from about Hamilton north but the ARC successfully reintroduced the bird to Hunua Ranges Regional Park last year.

Simon Roche

© Scoop Media

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