The bachelor lifestyle of the few remaining wild kaka in the Abel Tasman National Park is effectively over today with four female birds being released into the Park.
The female kaka are the first to be returned to the Abel Tasman as part of the work of environmental trust Project Janszoon and the Department ofConservation. While there are still a few wild kaka in the upper reaches of the Park it is thought they are all male, so until now the population has been effectively extinct.
Project Janszoon ornithologist Pete Gaze says the extensive predator control in the Park over the last few years will give the large forest dwelling parrots a good chance to successfully breed.
“This is the big one for me, to get kaka re-established in the Park and evident to visitors will be wonderful. At least one of the wild birds has taken an interest in the females since they arrived to the aviary and we will be releasing them at a time when everything bodes well for breeding this season,” he says.
Kaka are long lived birds but are vulnerable to stoats and possums, especially when on the nest. There are historic accounts from the late 1800s of large flocks of kaka in the Abel Tasman National Park feeding on flowering rata, and possum control is also helping the rata re-establish.
DOC’s Motueka Operations Manager Chris Golding says further kaka releases are also planned for coming years to augment the population.
“Kaka are one of my favourite birds as they are big, personable and vocal. As the population increases visitors to the Park will have every chance of seeing them, and in time we would expect kaka to come down to the coast so they are likely to be seen by people walking the coastal track.
The female kaka came from existing captive populations and have been raised in Te Anau, Dunedin and Invercargill. They were blessed at Golden Bay’s Onetahua Marae and transferred to an aviary by Wainui Hut in the upper reaches of the Park on 30 September to acclimatise to their new surroundings.
“There used to be kaka in the bush all around this area and we are absolutely delighted the birds are coming back to the rohe where they once were,” says Manawhenua ki Mohua representative John Ward-Holmes.
The four kaka have been fitted with radio transmitters and will be closely monitored over the coming months. Project Janszoon is also supporting a kaka breeding programme to complement the existing captive breeding programmes, with DOC currently collecting kaka chicks and eggs from the Nelson Lakes National Park.