Scoop Images: Toko And Rua Released
7 February 2000
Two female Kokako chicks, TokoRua, - meaning Second Try, were released into the Puketi Forest today. Brought over from Mataraua Forest in western Northland in early December, the two chicks spent the last 6 weeks being hand-reared in a purpose built aviary and have undergone an innovative predator aversion training.
The intensive hand-rearing process required Department of Conservation staff and community volunteers use Kokako puppets to feed chicks every hour from 7:00am until 8:00pm. Staff also designed a predator aversion training for the chicks. The training encounters, which utilized stuffed stoats and cats on a pulley system, were designed to teach the chicks to recognize and avoid predators. This was deemed essential when the both chicks from last year’s translocation attempt were killed a few months after their release - the first by a stoat and the second by a cat.
Kokako were once widely distributed throughout Northland. However, due to forest clearance and introduced predators only three isolated populations now remain, approximately 50 kokako in total. A rapid decline has occurred in Puketi Forest since 1984, when at least 100 kokako were present. Currently Puketi has only 13 recorded birds, including one pair. The largest population in Northland is in Mataraua with 12 pairs.
The two female chicks are from the Mataraua population. Translocation at an early age (2-3 weeks) and then hand-rearing of the chicks, as opposed to simply releasing independent juveniles or adult birds means that the birds will hopefully develop 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.
Monitoring the survival and movements of the kokako chicks following their release will be an essential part of the ongoing operation. Given the critical state of kokako in Puketi Forest, any new birds recruited into the population will be regarded as a success.