Tokorua Welcomed To Puketi
Kaumatua Wiremu Wiremu from Piki Te Aroha Marae welcomed two female kokako chicks to the Puketi Forest. Toko and Rua meaning Second Try were welcomed with a blessing and naming ceremony which was the first step to their translocation from Mataraua Forest in western Northland to the Puketi Forest.
Kokako were once widely distributed throughout Northland. However, due to forest clearance and introduced predators only three isolated populations now remain with approximately 50 kokako. The largest population in Northland is in Mataraua with 12 pairs. Currently Puketi has only 13 recorded birds, including one pair. A rapid decline has occurred in Puketi Forest since 1984, when at least 100 kokako were present.
The two female chicks are from the Mataraua population where there are currently three nests. If all nests are successful – to the stage of fledgling – then a second transfer to Puketi will be considered. As the kokako population in Puketi consists of 12 males and a single female, future translocation would only be considered if blood samples indicate that chicks are female.
The approximately 6 week hand-rearing of the two chicks will now begin in a purpose built aviary on the Southern plateau in the Puketi Forest. Hand rearing, as opposed to simply releasing independent juveniles or adult birds means that the birds will hopefully develop an attachment to the area and learn the local song. Birds without this attachment are likely to attempt to return to their home forest when released and would be unlikely to survive.
Additionally, the chicks will undergo predator aversion training in the aviary prior to release. It is hoped that the training encounters will teach the chicks to recognize and avoid predators.
Monitoring the survival and movements of the kokako chicks following their release will be an essential part of the operation. Given the critical state of kokako in Puketi Forest, any new birds recruited into the population will be regarded as a success.
The transfer of the kokako chicks is part of the Department of Conservation’s North Island kokako recovery plan launched by Conservation Minister Sandra Lee in May.
The goal of the plan was to establish 1000 breeding pairs in 23 key sites throughout the North Island, including Northland. Achieving this goal would almost certainly ensure the kokako’s survival. At the time of the plan’s launch there were fewer than 400 of the birds.
Dame Malvina Major is the patron of the kokako, while the Department is keen for a national sponsor for the recovery plan project.
For further background information on the kokako, visit http://www.doc.govt.nz/cons/native/kokako.htm
For additional information please contact Nigel Miller, Technical Support Officer 09 430 2470 or Steve McManus, Conservation Officer 09 407 8474