Our Mission: To restore the Manawahe Kokako population.
In 1997, a handful of kōkako were discovered hanging on to life on private land in Manawahe in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Under the guidance of DOC kōkako guru Jeff Hudson and aided with seeding funding from the Whakatane Rotary Club, a group of dedicated bird nerds formed a trust to protect the birds and give them a future. So began the first 22 years of intensive pest control by volunteers to remove predators and allow the birds to breed safely.
The trust was so successful that within 10 years the kōkako numbers more than tripled. Then, inexplicably they began to decline. Today they are almost down to the starting numbers, a heart-breaking turn of events for the people who have put years of hard work into saving these birds.
In 2014 the Lotteries Commission funded a three-year research project to try to halt the decline.
It began with conservation scientist Ian Flux sharing his expertise and teaching the volunteers to support contractors to locate nests and monitor nesting behaviour. This was new territory for the volunteers who had so far concentrated their efforts on pestcontrol. Now for the first time, they got to observe and enjoy the birds.
The results when they finally came were devastating. The team determined that predators were not to blame for the decrease in numbers but abandoned nests and infertile eggs were a recurring theme. The Kōkako Specialist Group advised that the reason for this infertility was most likely the result of a genetic bottleneck due to the small initial population. This kicked off Stage 2 of the project; a mission to introduce fresh genetics into the Manawahe population.
The Trust applied and was granted permission by Doc and iwi to translocate six pairs of kōkako to Manawahe over a five-year period.
After almost 2 years of planning and preparation and with support from the Kaharoa Kōkako Trust, the first translocation of 3 pairs from Kaharoa Forest went ahead in August 2019. Emotions ran high and tears were shed as each bird was released into their new home.
In late 2019 the Manawahe Kokako Trust was advised by DoC that no more birds were able to be taken from the Kaharoa Forest so a new source of birds for the final translocation was sought. The Rotoehu Ecological Trust and Ngati Makino gave permission for six kōkako to be taken from the nearby Rotoehu Forest and in May 2021 a variation to the trusts Wildlife Act Authority for translocation from Rotoehu was approved. The final translocation is planned for late August 2021.
Even though there is no certainty that translocation will save the birds, without it the Manawahe kōkako population would have likely faced extinction within five years. Thanks to the passion, determination and efforts of the Manawahe Kokako Trust volunteers, whose only reward is bird song, they at least have a chance. The results so far are exciting and show a glimpse of what is possible for this taonga with a bit of help.
How to Help
Volunteer activities include regular pest trapping, bait station fills, track maintenance, nest finding and monitoring, rat monitors and manning the BBQ at working bees and open days. Contact volunteer coordinator Ken Laurent (MNZM) – (07) 307 1323. Funding Needed: For nest monitoring and a kokako population census in 2022.