Young Kakï/Black Stilts Released Near Lake Tekapo
The Department of Conservation yesterday released 24 young kakï at the head of Lake Tekapo. Just 3 months old, the juvenile birds were hatched and raised in captivity as part of DOC’s kakï recovery programme.
“We raise the birds in captivity because it dramatically increases their chances of survival,” says Programme Manager Dave Murray. “In the wild, egg and chick survival is extremely low because of predation by feral cats, ferrets and other introduced mammals. Raising them in captivity takes all that out of the equation, at least for the first months of their lives.”
Once widespread and abundant throughout most of New Zealand, kakï are now essentially restricted to the Mackenzie Basin. Just 61 adults remain in the wild, but that number could increase considerably if the birds released by DOC survive to adulthood and form breeding pairs.
Although releases of young birds should help boost the wild kakï population, Mr Murray says that kakï recovery in the long-term will depend on gaining sound information on which to base management decisions. For this reason, all the young kakï released yesterday were fitted with tiny radio transmitters.
“Transmitters are a great monitoring tool,” he says. “They allow staff to quickly locate released birds, which means that any dead birds can be found and the cause of death determined. In this way, using transmitters helps us gain insight into the key factors influencing the survival of released birds.”
Monitoring the young kakï will be a collaborative effort involving both DOC and the University of Otago. The University will employ a contract worker to help monitor the birds and will supply extra transmitters so that the birds can be monitored for an additional 2 months. Wildlife Management staff at the University will also be involved in analysing the data collected.