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North Island kokako call the tune on critics

20 August, 2003 Media Statement

North Island kokako call the tune on conservation critics

Kokako in the Waikato are bouncing back from near extinction, proving in clear and poignant tones that Department of Conservation pest control does work.

"Our national songbird have increased in numbers at Waipapa forest from 16 breeding pairs in 1995 to 77 currently," Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

Mr Carter was speaking on lessons learned in kokako protection at Waipapa, a 4500 ha ecological area in Pureora Forest Park, while visiting Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Centre near Hamilton today.

He was responding to concern raised over DOC moving pest control from Waipapa forest this year to other threatened species projects.

Mr Carter said that spacing out intensive pest control operations in areas such as Waipapa to one year in every three or four allowed DOC to spread its budget to maximise its effectiveness.

"The idea is to return to an area to trap stoats, rats and other pests before they build up to levels where they start to impact significantly on kokako."

Pulsed pest control had become standard practice for 20 priority conservation sites around New Zealand, Mr Carter said. At Waipapa, the kokako success and bumper numbers of kaka (400-700) and kereru (3500) showed the method worked.

"Waipapa is one of few places in mainland New Zealand where you can see kokako, kaka, kakariki (parakeets) and kereru in the same forest."

DOC's kokako recovery team wants to restore kokako numbers nationally to 1000 breeding pairs by 2020, and in so doing, has tuned in to a curious aspect of their behaviour. The magpie-sized wattlebirds must sing from the same songsheet for courtship to be successful.

Te Urewera birdsong differed from Pureora's kokako chorus, Kapiti Island rangers discovered when translocated birds from both areas initially failed to inter-breed at the native bird sanctuary. That knowledge would help kokako breeders in Otorohanga and other captive breeding sites such as Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre.


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