Kōkako populations flourishing after intense work to combat predator control

It was a native bird on its last legs, but the kōkako could become common in Auckland’s Hunua Ranges if pest control efforts continue to succeed.

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Pest control efforts in Auckland’s Hunua Ranges aim to support the native bird. Source: 1 NEWS

That’s according to those working on a project to protect the species, who're seeing a great recovery in the population.

In the 2000 hectares monitored within the Hunua Ranges, there are now 106 kōkako pairs, and at least another 10 pairs are thought to be outside the monitored area.

"It's going really well, especially when you think of where we started from with just the one [breeding] pair in 1995," natural heritage scientist Tim Lovegrove said.

With 17,000 hectares of what Mr Lovegrove calls "good kōkako habitat", he believes the forest could support thousands of the species in the long-term.

Coordinator of volunteers for the Auckland Council kokako project, Declan Morrison, said, "if we can keep up the pest control, the numbers will continue to grow".

The programme to increase the kōkako population's included 1080 drops, and intensive predator control.

Senior conservation ranger Miranda Bennett said the songbirds have no defence against pests.

"The females particularly are vulnerable because they're the ones incubating on the nest so when those rats and stoats and possums climb up, they take those females out of the population, and we can no longer have breeding success if we don’t have females."

There has been 3000 volunteer hours go into the project every year, with a core team of 15 volunteers.

Ms Bennett said that time sees them, "clear bait lines, putting in bait in bait stations. checking our predator traps".

The end goal is that the Hunua’s kōkako population can become a source for other projects wanting to grow the number of kōkako in other areas.

As part of conservation week the Council's offering guided walks to see kōkako.

Mr Lovegrove said "it’s an opportunity for the public to come in here… especially to these more remote parts which are hard to reach".

The council hopes to eventually offer the walks on a permanent basis.