Koppens picked to free kokako

Jun 29th, 2017 | By | Category: Latest News, Local People

Tamahere’s Leo Koppens got up close with a kokako this week when he was picked to release the rare bird on to Mount Pirongia.

Leo Koppens waiting expectantly for the kokako to leave its transport box for a new life on Pirongia

KĊkako once had a strong presence on Pirongia but due to constant pest threats the last birds of a diminishing population were removed in the 1990s to try to ensure their survival.

Now, they are being brought back to the mountain by the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, which has created a 1000 hectare, predator controlled area on the mountain.

The society picked Koppens to release the 11th kokako of a planned 20 to be reintroduced to the mountain this year in recognition of his contribution to conservation. Koppens is known locally for his work restoring the Tamahere Reserve, the Allan Turner Reserve and his membership of the Tamahere Community Committee.

The birds released on Pirongia so far have been caught in Pureora Forest where there is a thriving population. Next year up to 14 are expected to come from Tiritiri Matangi Island, where some birds are partly descended from the last of the Pirongia population.

The overall goal is to have 40, non-related birds on Pirongia in two to three years’ time.

Ecologists Amanda Rogers and Dave Bryden, who work for the society, caught this week’s bird in Pureora and transported it carefully to Pirongia. It was then a short walk along a bushclad track with its transport box to the release site on a tree trunk bending over the track.

A quietly excited group of onlookers waited for the bird to emerge from its box but it took its time. It may have been quite happy with the amount of food it had been transported with, said Bryden later.

But with a bit of encouragement from Rogers it emerged, alighted briefly on the trunk and flew up into the canopy above. Unlike the other birds to be released, which disappeared quickly into the forest, this one hopped around the branches above for some time.

The released kokako checking out its new Pirongia home

Koppens was thrilled with the experience and heartened to see the work of the society getting such tangible results.

“We can just hope that the restoration work in Tamahere continues to attract back birdlife. Maybe not the kokako in the forseeable future but we are already seeing tui in good numbers and the recent sightings of bellbirds is very encouraging.”

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