Kokako population on the rise in the Hunua Ranges

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13 July 2009

Continued success in the protection of a rare native bird species is being recorded in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park.

With around 750 pairs of kokako left in the North Island, the number of breeding pairs and young produced in the Hunua Ranges Kokako Management Area (KMA) has the potential to make a significant contribution to the future security of the species.

In 2008/09 the Hunua kokako project, managed jointly by the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and Department of Conservation (DOC), reported 18 breeding pairs established in the managed area. Since management of the population began 15 years ago at least 58 young are known to have been produced.

“In 1994 the ARC stepped in to save a tiny population of kokako rapidly heading toward local extinction. This was outside the normal duties of a local body, however had we not intervened, this population would have become locally extinct.

“At the time there was only one breeding pair surviving in the Hunua Ranges,” says ARC Chairman Mike Lee.

“This partnership between the ARC and DOC is a vital effort in saving this treasured species from the threat of extinction – a reality for the South Island kokako, which is now assumed to be extinct.

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Giant Moa Rebuilt Using Ancient DNA From Prehistoric Feathers

Giant Moa Rebuilt Using Ancient DNA From Prehistoric Feathers
ScienceDaily (June 30, 2009) — Scientists have performed the first DNA-based reconstruction of the giant extinct moa bird, using prehistoric feathers recovered from caves and rock shelters in New Zealand.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide and Landcare Research in New Zealand have identified four different moa species after retrieving ancient DNA from moa feathers believed to be at least 2500 years old.

The giant birds – measuring up to 2.5 metres and weighing 250 kilograms – were the dominant animals in New Zealand’s pre-human environment but were quickly exterminated after the arrival of the Maori around 1280 AD.

PhD student Nicolas Rawlence from the University’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA says until now, the scientific community has not known what the 10 different species of moa looked like. ”By using ancient DNA we have been able to connect feathers to four different moa species,” he says.

The researchers compared the feathers to others found in the sediments from red-crowned parakeets that are still living today, determining they had not faded or changed in colour. They then reconstructed the appearance of the stout-legged moa, heavy-footed moa, upland moa and the South Island giant moa.

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How do we pay to save our ecological treasures?

How do we pay to save our ecological treasures? | Stuff.co.nz

photo by Phil Brown
Wellingtonians know how the Karori sanctuary has transformed their city. Sightings of species such as kaka, which would have been worthy of a press report 20 years ago, have become almost ordinary.

Apart from a handful of  dedicated grumblers disturbed by  the dawn chorus, the city’s population has delighted in the visible explosion in birdlife.

I can recall the private scepticism that the trust’s founding enthusiasts provoked in the early 1990s. While the vision was applauded, the scale of the New Zealand’s biodiversity catastrophe seemed almost overwhelming. Some regarded it as a quixotic gesture when the nation’s forests were collapsing around us. To others, wrapping the reserve in a predator exclusion fence was an admission of defeat – that the war was lost and that the only future for our native birds would be in outdoor museum enclosures.

How wrong they were. The trust’s most brilliant insight was to create a refuge in the heart of the capital where it could not be ignored. It created a popular constituency that has been infectious. Last week I visited the most spectacular outpost of this restorative contagion: Maungatautari. Just south of Cambridge, this deeply dissected basaltic volcano has become the international leading edge for ecological restoration, on a scale and with meticulousness that almost defies belief.

It is the size of the pest-excluded area that is mind-boggling: 3300 hectares protected by 42 kilometres of fence is an order of magnitude larger than Karori. Unlike Karori, the ancient forest canopy is still intact with huge rata and rimu. And the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust has an even more ambitious goal than its Karori counterpart. For while Karori has eliminated the large familiar intruders, such as possums and stoats, it hasn’t eliminated mice. Maungatautari is within a stone’s throw of achieving that.

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