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Sanctuary’s wild kaka population gets a boost

Media Statement

11 September 2003

Sanctuary’s wild kaka population gets a boost

Three nationally endangered North Island kaka, that were captive-bred at Otorohanga Zoo, were released into the wild at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary today.

The birds join six kaka that were released last year in the Sanctuary. These birds have stayed, made the Sanctuary their home, bred, produced young and attracted another kaka from somewhere a far.

The Sanctuary is proving to be a good environment for the kaka to breed. One pair of kaka that formed after the first release reared three chicks earlier this year, probably the first successful fledging of kaka chicks in the Wellington region in 100 years. The three kaka released today are also notable, because they are the first kaka successfully produced at Otorohanga Zoo.

Probably fewer than 10,000 kaka exist, mainly on off-shore islands. The distribution, range and number of kaka have been greatly reduced by the clear-felling of forests, competition with possums for fruit and nectar-bearing plants and predation by introduced mammals.

The Sanctuary with its predator-proof fence and 500-year plan to restore the 252ha valley is making a difference. As the Sanctuary continues to develop and grow, flashes of orange-red kaka plumage among the trees may become an increasingly familiar sight in the hills of Wellington. Kaka are strong fliers and already are seen in areas outside the Sanctuary.

The kaka have coloured bands and transmitters fitted so they can be individually identified. The transmitters emit a signal, which is specific to the bird they are fitted to for up to four years and is used to track where the birds fly.

Sanctuary Trust Chairman Richard Bentley says, “We’re delighted with the progress of the kaka at the Sanctuary. The new birds are a boost to the Sanctuary’s population of kaka and a wonderful attraction for visitors. We are certainly hopeful of new pairs establishing and breeding this coming season too.”

Mr Bentley also said, “Today, not only are we celebrating our second release of kaka, but more importantly we are also celebrating what this actually symbolises. We are celebrating being part of and contributing to the successful first steps in the development of a world-renown scientific, educational and conservation regime where humans can successfully rehabilitate heavily damaged ecosystems and where people of all ages, ethnicities and cultures can study, learn and appreciate the unique ecology and natural heritage of New Zealand.”

The Wellington Tenths Trust performed a powhiri before the three kaka were released. Prime Minister Helen Clark, who has visited the Sanctuary on a number of occasions, was the Sanctuary's honoured guest at the release.

"This kaka release is a significant step in improving Wellington's biodiversity and all Wellingtonians should be proud of this achievement," Prime Minister Helen Clark said.

The Sanctuary is particularly grateful to the W. N. Pharazyn Charitable Trust, which has sponsored both kaka releases. The Sanctuary is also extremely grateful to Otorohanga Zoo. The kaka release today shows what can be achieved when organisations work together in conservation.

“Depending on availability of birds following the next breeding season, we hope to do another release of kaka next year to further boost the Sanctuary population” Richard Bentley said.

The Sanctuary has now successfully released 11 species of birds into the valley and planted thousands of trees and plants. People who return are astounded by the progress that has been made in a relatively short time.

To catch a glimpse of these magnificent birds in the wild you can visit the Sanctuary, which is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 5pm (or 10am to 4pm on weekdays during April to November). Visitor Centre at the end of Waiapu Road, Karori, Wellington. www.sanctuary.org.nz


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