Kōkako: Bird of the year making a comeback
It’s a familiar story: predators and habitat loss taking their toll on yet another vulnerable species.
The forest-dwelling kōkako, whose melancholic song makes a lasting impact on those who hear it, was down to 330 breeding pairs in 1999. Fearing this icon would be lost forever, the Department of Conservation (DOC), Auckland Regional Council and several community groups such as the Kaharoa Kokako Trust took action.
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has a long history of providing the science behind these recovery efforts. John Innes, a wildlife ecologist, was instrumental in writing a new recovery plan (2017–25) and working with DOC to ensure its success. This latest version of the plan is a culmination of 30 years’ work by John and others.
Today there are around 1,570 breeding pairs because of efforts to control predators and move breeding pairs to re-establish populations or augment existing populations.
Kōkako can now be found living in 13 translocated populations on the mainland and offshore islands and have gone from Nationally Critical to At Risk – recovering.
This is probably the most successful conservation story of a New Zealand bird species, achieved through the collaborative hard work of scientists, conservation managers, iwi, agencies such as Forest and Bird, regional councils and many local communities.
Image © Neil Fitzgerald Photography