Archives For kokako

The famous kōkako Duncan captured hearts across the country this month with his great escape; here’s his story…

Duncan the kokako on the run in a tree.

On the run

DOC ranger Hazel Speed has mastered catching kōkako in the depths of mature native forest in Pureora. She’s also adept at moving through the dense scrub on Tirtiri Matangi Island to monitor these birds that, although renowned for their inability to fly long distances, can still move pretty quickly—especially when you’re on their tail. But what does she do when faced with kōkako catching in suburban Auckland? One adventurous kōkako, going by the name Duncan, gave her the chance to show us.

This adventurous kōkako was released a couple of years back in the northern Waitakere Ranges into the intensive predator-controlled area of Ark in the Park. His appearance a few weeks ago in the eastern suburb of Glendowie (think 30 odd kilometres away, on the opposite side of Auckland) and you’ve got a complex challenge for our biodiversity ranger!

Duncan sitting in his favourite Jacaranda tree.

Duncan in the Jacaranda

A cupcake decorated with a kokako.

Kōkako cupcake

Luckily the residents of Glendowie were up for the challenge. Locals were so charmed by this blue-wattled crow that they’d stop in the street (on foot and in cars), fascinated, amazed and concerned. Then they’d bring their children and friends back to see him.

Hazel saw the nonplussed become engaged overnight by Duncan’s presence. One neighbour did a letter drop to ask if people would keep their cats inside at night. The same neighbour ensured tea and coffee and a toilet was available for the catching team (you can’t just pee in the bushes in suburbia like you can in the field!).

She also made soup for the team and even put Hazel up overnight (including dinner), so she could be up early to mist net the errant bird. And yes those are her kōkako cupcakes, to thank Hazel for her hard work.

And hard work it was—a number of days were spent over two weeks trying to figure out the best way to catch Duncan—not to mention negotiating access onto neighbours property, impenetrable hedges, tall fences, the likelihood of guard dogs, an extremely busy road and avoiding power lines with mist net poles!

Duncan is spotted in a tree in Glendowie before being caught.

Duncan, blissfully unaware he’s about to be caught

On the morning of Wednesday 15 May, one neighbour with three young boys asked Hazel, “Do you think you could catch Duncan today? It’s my son’s 4th birthday.” And like any great DOC worker, she delivered… and the three boys got to witness Duncan close-up (although behind a ranch slider!). Can you picture the boys peering into the small room in their house (that had been specially cleared of the boys’ shoes and stuff the night before), as Hazel safely checked Duncan over before popping him into a transfer box?

The media was keen on a Duncan close-up too, and Hazel negotiated a deal to ensure the bird could be caught without the distraction of cameras (and the associated crowd) in exchange for witnessing the bird’s release back into the Waitakere Ranges.

On the day of release, despite warnings, certain journos had brought their ‘city boots’, and gumboots had to be picked up on the way back across Auckland for them. Duncan was then released back into his home in the Waitakere Ranges and exited the transfer box like a shot. It was an exhilarating day for Hazel and all those involved.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Sarah King, a Biodiversity Ranger in the Te Urewera Whirinaki Area Office.

Sarah and her helper tend to a kaka in Whirinaki Forest.

Sarah and her helper tend to a kaka in Whirinaki Forest.

A kokako singing in a tree in Whirinaki Forest.

The most beautiful sound is a kokako dawn chorus

At work

Some things I do in my job include… Monitoring birds and bats, catching and handling threatened species (the plants are a real trick to catch), and showing other people some of the cool stuff you can see in the bush.

The best bit about my job is… Getting up close to some awesome critters.

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… Being bait to catch falcons, wearing a chief’s hat with leg nooses on top. I had to get up on a tree stump to be taller than my co worker so that the falcon would strike me—best time I’ve ever had being bait.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Jeff Hudson, he taught me all that he could about the ins and outs of kōkako. His enthusiasm was so infectious that even though he’s passed away I can still feel him nudging me on to find out more.

Sarah holds a short-tailed bat.

Short tailed bats have attitude and like to investigate with their teeth

Sarah holding a tuatara in Whirinaki Forest.

Chuffed to get my hands on this big fella

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… Can cross country ski (I’m not saying ‘well’ though).

My stomping ground is… The Whirinaki Forest.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional it would be… Sir David Attenborough, what a life!

My best ever holiday was… In Tasmania with my partner, catching Tazzy devils and platypus, searching for gems in the creeks and finding as many cool critters as possible.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… A falcon—high speed aerial agility; that’d be a rush.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… Don’t really have one but this one’s quite good: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Mae West.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… ‘Take the time to look around you, you never know what wonders you might chance to see’.

Sarah holding a kiwi during a kiwi release.

Kiwi releases are great for getting people involved

In work and life I am motivated by… Enthusiasm. It breeds more enthusiasm, and if it’s directed towards saving threatened species then that’s the best sort.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… Don’t take our forests and wildlife for granted, just 50 years ago we had so much more than we do now and people assumed it would be there forever.  What little we have left: treasure it, get out and see it and fight for it because soon it could be gone forever.

A tui sitting in a tree in Whirinaki Forest.

Always amazed at the colours on tui

Busking for kea

 —  02/11/2011

Singing on the sidewalk and sizzling sausages are just some of the fundraising efforts made by Tairua School students to help save our native species.

Denise, Tim and Jack busking outside Tairua Four Square

After learning about New Zealand’s biodiversity, Room 5 students wanted to make a difference; and that they did. All together they raised a grand total of $495!

“We did good busking in the streets of Tairua, and we made $59.00 in just under an hour,” says Tim, who was in the Kea group.

Kea, tuatara, kokako, kakapo and the yellow eyed penguin were the chosen species, all receiving a boost to their survival chances thanks to these budding young conservationists.

Mohini and Maddie with the kakapo donation box

“The tuatara’s a unique animal to New Zealand. It’s one of the dinosaurs that’s been here for a million years, and if we don’t save them… who will?” says Henry, whose group raised $270 for DOC’s tuatara recovery project.

The tuatara group raffled off a board of scratchies

Children approached local businesses to ask for donations, organised a raffle with $50 worth of scratchies up for grabs, placed donation boxes in shops, sold good old fashioned sausages, and sang along to Tim’s guitar playing outside the local Four Square. They also put up posters around the community, promoted their cause on the radio, and advertised in the school newsletter.

The students’ teacher, Samantha Telfar, says the students initiated their action plans to help save an endangered species of their choice. “I’m really pleased with the students’ progress and enthusiasm they are showing for their native species projects,” she says.

The yellow eyed penguin group put posters in shops around town

Jaxon, who studied kakapo, learnt that “some are friendly, some are cruisy, and some are big eaters.”

Tairua locals are also big eaters, spending $73.80 on barbequed sausages, with funds helping out kokako.

Connor and the money raised for the kokako

“The plan is to have a kokako in every back yard, and so many we can harvest them,” says Glenn Kilpatrick, helping out behind the barbie.

The students presented their achievements to the class, including information on what they’d learnt, and what they’d do a second time around. Each group was happy with the fantastic results they’d achieved for their chosen species, and wished to thank everyone who’d donated towards their cause.