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Zoo helps Whitehead home to Waitakeres

27 August 2004

Zoo helps Whitehead home to Waitakeres

The support and skills of Auckland Zoo have played a key role in assisting ‘Ark in the Park’ staff catch 60 native whitehead (popokatea) birds on Tiritiri Matangi for release into the Waitakere ranges this afternoon.

Through its Conservation Fund, Auckland Zoo sponsors 30ha of predator control for the ‘Ark in the Park’ and assists with checking bait stations there on a regular basis. ‘Ark in the Park’ is an Auckland Regional Council (ARC) /Forest & Bird initiative to create a predator-free “mainland island” in the northern area of the Waitakere Ranges. Todd Jenkinson, a member of the zoo’s Native Fauna team has spent the past week on Tiritiri Matangi working alongside ARC, Department of Conservation and some Massey University staff, to capture the 60 Whitehead. This native forest bird, which has have been locally extinct for some time, is the first species to be re-released back into the park. The birds are being transported by boat to North Harbour, and are due to be released at Waitakere’s Cascade Falls at 2pm this afternoon.

Ark in the Park’ Manager Sandra Jack says the whitehead release is the “culmination of a vision, and thousands of volunteer hours removing predators from the 600ha Park, which will eventually extend to 2000ha.

“It’s an extremely exciting step towards returning the Waitakeres to the way it should be.”

“It’s been great having the help of skilled zoo staff, and the support of an institution like the zoo that’s really focused on conservation and public awareness of native species. This is an excellent example of a captive breeding facility and an in-situ project co-operating for the big picture of preserving native species,” says Sandra Jack.

“It’s important for zoo staff to be involved in insitu projects like this, and to be meeting people who have the same goals and passion for conservation,” says Auckland Zoo Director Glen Holland.

“We’re very happy to be supporting the project, and it’s extremely rewarding to see the results of the work put in. Returning birds to their ‘home’ is really the ultimate.”

Ends Note to editor: The whitehead (popokatea) 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 the Hunua Ranges Regional Park last year.


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