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Joining forces to save the Kukupa (wood pigeon)

Hon Phillida Bunkle
Associate Minister for the Environment


Environmentalists and Maori join forces to save the Kukupa (wood pigeon)
Embargoed for automatic release 11am Friday 19 May 2000

The Associate Minister for the Environment Hon Phillida Bunkle has announced what's believed to be the first bilingual major campaign with a strong conservation theme, to highlight the plight of a native bird in decline because of predators and poaching.

The campaign to safeguard the Kukupa or wood pigeon is being undertaken by Northland Maori, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the Department of Conservation.

Together they have produced posters and pamphlets in both Maori and English as well as a portable display unit, initially for Northland but eventually for use throughout New Zealand as the campaign spreads nationwide.

While the bird is known in Northland as the Kukupa, it is known in some other parts of the country as the Kereru or the Kuku, and in the Chathams it is known as the Parea.

"It is of grave concern that Kukupa numbers have declined by around 50 percent in some parts of Northland's forests during the past 20 years, " said Ms Bunkle today, speaking at the launch function at Motatau marae in Northland.

"At this rate of decline, the birds could disappear from Northland forests within the next 10-15 years," she warned. "Past logging and possum damage have left the birds starving or stressed, and resulted in a severe impact on breeding."

Kevin Prime of Ngati Hine, who has a long history of championing the bird's plight, said the Kukupa was a "taonga species".

He said it must not be allowed to decline into extinction by public complacency just because surviving numbers appeared to be in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

Mr Prime said it was not widely known that the Kukupa played an important role in the health and survival of forest ecosystems by being responsible for the dispersal of the large seeds of many native trees.

"Tiakina nga manu, ka ora te ngahere, " he said, highlighting the words of a Maori adage: Look after the birds and the forest flourishes. "Kia ora te ngahere, ka ora nga manu". (If the forest flourishes, the birds flourish)

Forest and Bird President Keith Chapple said the launch had come at an appropriate time.

"We are in the middle of the Kukupa poaching season, " he said. "This poaching is one of the reasons we are highlighting the plight of this critical forest bird."

Six action plan activities advocated in the Kukupa campaign resource material include growing suitable native food trees for the birds, fencing forest blocks, predator control, and active protection by the community. The material will be available free of charge through offices of the Department of Conservation as well as those of Forest and Bird.

Ms Bunkle dedicated the Kukupa public awareness campaign to the memory of Forest and Bird's former northern field officer Jacqui Barrington of Waiheke Island near Auckland who was responsible for initiating it. Ms Barrington died of cancer before she could bring the launch of the project to completion.

A legacy received from Jacqui Barrington's estate has helped to fund the campaign, along with a Lottery Heritage grant to Forest and Bird.

This latest campaign will compliment another DoC initiative: a Kukupa survival guide and school education pack produced by the Northland Conservancy as part of its on-going community outreach, and DoC funding of a community educator to speak about the bird at Northland schools, kura kaupapa Maori, kohanga reo and marae.


Wanda Vivequin, Department of Conservation 09 430 2465
Northland Conservancy 025 277 1030
Wanda Vivequin will be present at the launch, with her mobile phone.

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