Deidre Vercoe, programme manager, talks about the recent transfer of four kākāpō to Hauturu-O-Toi in the North Island’s Hauraki Gulf.
On the 10th of July four kākāpō were moved from Whenua Hou to Hauturu-o-Toi to join a trial of the site’s suitability for kākāpō breeding. This brings the total population of kākāpō on Hauturu to 14 (7 females, 7 males).
It was a long day for the team – and the birds! We were joined by representatives of Ngāi Tahu, who are kaitiaki (guardians) of kākāpō along with Ngāti Manuhiri, kaitiaki of Hauturu.
Kākāpō are on Hauturu as part of a trial to understand the site’s long term suitability for a self-sustaining population. Our main question is ‘can kākāpō raise chicks on Hauturu without our support?’
The island has all of the essential ingredients for a good kākāpō site: It is large and could hold up to 100 kākāpō, it’s predator free and too far away from mainland NZ for predators to swim there. We know kākāpō can survive and nest on the island (birds were present there between 1982 and 1999) however we don’t know if females can raise chicks without the support of supplementary food. With no Rimu trees on Hauturu, we don’t know what they will feed their chicks – possibly Kauri, kahikatea or beech.
The trial started in 2012 with the introduction of 10 kākāpō. Since then, only two eggs have hatched on the island – with neither being successfully reared.
It could take a decade to answer this question – but with an increased population, we hope we will have the information we need sooner.
Two of the recently transferred birds, Wendy and Blades, are no strangers to Hauturu. Both lived there in the 1980’s & 90’s. The birds were released near the hut and after an absence of 20 years – both returned to their previous home range on the island. Wendy made the several kilometre journey in just 6 days!
Hear the interview with Deidre on Radio NZ.