Kokako took centre-stage at the recent AGM for Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society. Although the advertised guest speaker, Tertia Thurley, cancelled due to illness, attendees were treated to a pictorial record of the DNA sampling of kokako at Hauturu/Little Barrier Island in August 2015 by committee member Vic Hopkirk who was a part of that expedition. This work was funded from a grant from DoC’s Community Conservation Partnerships Fund to develop a strategy to translocate kokako to Mt Pirongia. Hauturu/Little Barrier Island has a good population of kokako but genetic analysis was needed to determine if they would be suitable as founder birds for a new population, hence the sampling trip. Mr Hopkirk said his experience was amazing and working with these endangered songbirds was absolutely captivating. Results of the DNA analysis are still awaited.
In her annual report to the meeting, Chairperson Clare St Pierre highlighted the continuing outstanding success of the pest control work on Mt Pirongia, where community volunteers fill bait stations in a 1,000ha grid. Last season, the rat monitoring index was reduced to zero (from a high of 78%) for the third time in nine years with 3.33% being the highest residual index over that period. Native bird numbers are continuing to climb especially riflemen, bellbirds and kereru, and robin sightings continue.
Last year, the society took on a new pest control project at Okahukura in Northern Pureora Forest to protect a key remnant population of kokako that has the potential to link up with other kokako clusters and strengthen the overall gene pool in the area. Three years of funding was secured from DoC’s Partnership Fund to establish a 1,000ha bait station grid in the area through collaboration with DoC Te Kuiti and Pureora, Ngati Rereahu and Kessels Ecology. 80 community volunteers were attracted to the project and rats were reduced from 46.6% to 3.3% (possums were already low in the area so were not specifically targeted). Kokako pairs surveyed in June showed an increase from 22 in 2012 to 45 pairs. Best of all, the Pureora kokako population has been assessed as genetically robust, the first population in the country to achieve that milestone.
The icing on the cake for the group has to be confirmation that the last kokako removed from Mt Pirongia in the 1990s bred successfully and their bloodlines continue today. Their progeny are on Kapiti Island and Tiritiri Matangi in the Hauraki Gulf. It would be the society’s dream-come-true to have some of these birds returned to Mt Pirongia. An ethical clothing company, Chalky digits, has agreed to fund the development of a corporate sponsorship package for the translocation which should help the group secure funding for this hugely significant project.
Following the fascinating presentation at the 2015 AGM, a Dactylanthus group was set up to look after these unique plant colonies on Mt Pirongia, and native bat and bird monitoring continues as well. During the evening, society secretary Dianne June gave an informative demonstration of how new model bat monitors record activity and the process involved in analysing the data. Mrs St Pierre finished her report by thanking the committee and volunteers who contributed 3824 hours over the year to furthering the society’s aims.
The group welcomes new volunteers for their projects, especially to help out at Okahukura. Baiting is scheduled for the weekends of September 18/19 and October 14/15.
Accommodation is provided by the society at Pureora Forest Lodge and volunteers can come along for just one day if they wish. A reasonable level of fitness and familiarity with working in a remote bush environment is recommended although there is good support from those more experienced.
For further information please contact:
Jeanie Allport, Okahukura project co-ordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org or Clare St Pierre, society chairperson: email@example.com or 07 8719133.