By Adelia Hallett
The return of the endangered kokako to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari after 30 years shows that people can reverse environmental loss when they put their minds to it, says fundraising expert and environmental author Tony Lindsay.
Kokako have been extinct in the area since the 1980s.
The forest-covered mountain, near Cambridge in Waikato, is now a mainland ecological island, protected by the world’s longest predator-proof fence.
Over the past two weeks, six kokako have been released into the forest, with another 34 to come.
The project is being funded by the $70,000 the Maungatautiri Ecological Island Trust Board has raised with the support of Vega.works, the supporter engagement software platform developed by Mr Lindsay’s company to help clubs and charities raise money.
A social entrepreneur with a long history of raising money for charities, Mr Lindsay had conservation groups like Maungatautiri in mind when he led the creation of the Vega.works platform.
“Vega.works is intensely proud to be associated with the successful reintroduction of kokako to Maungatautari,” he said.
“Conservation, restoration and accepting our responsibilities as kaitiaki of the natural world are issues close to my heart. It’s vital that groups like Maungatautiri can successfully raise money to do the work they need to do. Without sanctuaries like Maungatautari, many New Zealanders and most tourists would never get to see our unique and wonderful flora and fauna.”
Kokako are wattlebirds, and are closely related to the now-extinct huia, and the near-threatened saddleback.
In Maori mythology, kokako were the birds that brought water to the demi-god Maui as he battled the sun.
The songs of the North Island kokako (the South Island kokako if thought extinct), was once common, but their numbers have dwindled in the face of habitat loss and predation from introduced animals, like rats and stoats.
They disappeared from Maungatautari in the early 1980s, but with the 3400-hectare native conifer/broadleaf/podocarps forest now safe behind a 47 kilometre-long predator-proof fence, trustees decided it was time to bring them back.
The birds being relocated to Maungatautari are from Pureora Forest, west of Lake Taupo. Ten will be released this year, with the rest released over the next three years.
“If you are ever in a position to hear the haunting song of the Kokako on a misty morning, you are transported back to an ancient Aotearoa/New Zealand and you will never forget the experience,” Mr Lindsay said.
“This beautiful bird will now sing over the Waikato from the security of Maungatautari. What an achievement for everyone who worked hard to make it happen.”
Mr Lindsay says that more money is needed to support the project, and urges anyone who can spare even a dollar or two to go to the Maungatautiri or Vega websites to make a donation.
“Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust is an extraordinary credit to its founders and to all the people of the Waikato,” Mr Lindsay said.
“It is a globally recognised taonga, and I urge everyone to support it.”
Saddlebacks were reintroduced to Maungatautiri in 2012 from Tiritiri Matangi, in the Hauraki Gulf, and are now breeding well.
*Maungatautari featured in the book Paradise Saved – The Remarkable Story of New Zealand’s Wildlife Sanctuaries and How They Are Stemming the Tide of Extinction, of which Mr Lindsay was a co-author.