Little Barrier Island, or Hauturu, lies 80km north of Auckland city on the outer edge of the Hauraki Gulf and has been an invaluable refuge for a range of threatened native species since feral cats were eliminated in the 1970s.
Kākāpō Recovery Plan 2006-2016: Plan period, goal three – action 3.3 states:
“Return some adult kākāpō to Hauturu as soon as is practicable and determine their ability to fledge chicks without supplementary food.”
This is listed as an essential action.
In April 2012, eight kākāpō were taken off Codfish and Anchor Islands and transferred to Hauturu/Little Barrier Island, as part of a Kākāpō Recovery trial. The aim is to find out, during a six to 10-year period, whether kākāpō can raise chicks on the island in the absence of supplementary food.
Hauturu was a site for kākāpō management between 1982 and 1999 and during this time the birds did breed but didn’t successfully raise chicks without supplementary food and protection from rats. Thankfully, the island is now rat free so kākāpō eggs will be safe and food sources more plentiful.
If kākāpō can successfully raise chicks on Hauturu, it will significantly improve the long term security of the population. Hauturu and Codfish Island are the only suitable islands outside the swimming range of rats and stoats. All other suitable islands would have to be managed indefintely for the threat of pest re-invasion.
Hauturu is relatively big (3100ha compared to Codfish 1500ha) so could potentially sustain a large number of breeding birds.