Reward offer for South Island kokako brings out possible sightings

ALDEN WILLIAMS & CHARLES ANDERSON/Stuff.co.nz

Nelson Mail reporter Charles Anderson on the hunt for the South Island Kokako

Could an extinct bird be living in our midst?

The South Island kokako is an ancient endemic bird, unique to New Zealand and once widespread in our southern forests. It is known for its distinct call and orange wattle under its neck.

It was listed as extinct until 2013 when several reported sightings prompted its reclassification as "data deficient" meaning there was not enough data to be certain of extinction.

An artist's impression of the South Island kokako which is thought to be extinct.
supplied

An artist's impression of the South Island kokako which is thought to be extinct.

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South Island kokako 'data deficient'

So the South Island Kokako Charitable Trust put up a reward offer of $10000 for information resulting in confirmation that the South Island kokako is still alive.

Since then the trust has received about 50 reports of possible encounters from the top of the South Island to the outer reaches of Fiordland.

Long standing kokako enthusiast and trustee, Ron Nilsson, has followed up a number of the reports and is excited about what he is finding.

"Many of these encounters are new to us or they corroborate earlier reports in a number of areas. We need back country users to be looking for evidence that this bird is still alive but it's hard to advise where best to be looking as these very credible reports extend the length of the South Island."

Although the recent reports span around three decades Nilsson described reports as "probably" or "definitely" a South Island kokako in several areas.

"The best and most recent reports of encounters were from Fiordland, South Westland, the Grey Valley, the Marlborough Sounds and the Heaphy track. Other reports from the Catlins, Nelson Lakes, Lake Hawea and Otira areas are also strong but not so recent. We have a very promising sound recording from a search just last month but we are still looking for photographic proof."

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Trust manager Inger Perkins advised would be searchers to have a look at the map of possible encounters on the trust's website and if they were planning a trip into those areas to get in touch in case more detailed information was available. 

"We still need definitive evidence and with compelling reports from such a wide range of locations from the top to the bottom of the South Island, we are optimistic that proof will be found soon.

"The outdoors beckons and I'd encourage everyone to be familiar with the sound and appearance of this precious bird and to carry a camera when out in our native forests. Check out our website for all you need to know, take appropriate safety precautions and good luck."

 - Stuff

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