Pirongia Te Returning long lost kokako to Mt Pirongia

Pirongia Te Returning long lost kokako to Mt Pirongia

Pirongia Te Returning long lost kokako to Mt Pirongia

Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society

Kokako were once abundant on Mt Pirongia in the Waikato but diminished due to constant pest threats.
Sadly, the last birds were removed in the 1990s and transferred to Tiritiri Matangi and Kapiti islands.
The Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society formed in 2002 with one of its objectives to see kokako reintroduced to the mountain.
The Society has faced a number of challenges, including managing rat and possum populations, issues with the genetic health and long-term viability of source populations, and creating a suitable habitat.
In 2006, the Society began pest control on Mt Pirongia with a 250 ha bait station grid, which has expanded to cover 1,000ha and has reduced the pests to an annual average of about 2 percent of their previous levels. Meanwhile native bird numbers have been steadily climbing.

The next step was to develop a translocation proposal, which included funding DNA research at Little Barrier Island to establish suitability of those birds to found a new population.

The Society also stepped forward to protect a kokako population in the Northern Pureora Forest in the hope that this would allow the populations to connect and interbreed. This project involved 80 volunteers and huge logistical challenges, but was highly successful in reducing rats from 46.6 per cent to 3.3 per cent in the first season.

A kokako survey in late 2016 showed there were 45 pairs and six singles in the area, compared to 22 pairs in 2012 survey.

Importantly, the Pureora kokako population has been assessed as genetically robust, the first population in the country to achieve that milestone.

The Society hopes to reintroduce the first kokako to Mt Pirongia later this year.

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