The first kokako have returned to Mount Pirongia
Kokako have returned to Mount Pirongia, for the first time in over twenty years.
At the crack of dawn, ecologists Amanda Rogers and Dave Bryden, who work for the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, were in position in the Pureora Forest.
The pair rigged a 12-metre by 10-metre mist net into a canopy and began to lure the birds.
"We have previously recorded each birds individual voice, so we can play it back to them in the forest and attract them into the net," Rogers said.
After about an hour, Rogers and Bryden had captured two kokako.
"It could have been three, but one ripped a hole in the net and got away," Rogers said.
The birds were then carefully put into a transfer box each and released on Mount Pirongia.
Local iwi Purekireki Marae named the birds Rongomau and Rangimarie, meaning peace, in front of a throng of supporters on Tuesday.
The two kokako are the first of 20 birds, which will be released in the middle of a 1000 hectare, predator controlled area on the mountain this year.
The project has been driven by the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, which has a founding aim of hearing the call of the kokako on Mt Pirongia once again.
The Society recently won the biodiversity protection category at the Green Ribbon Awards for the work its done around protecting kokako.
Kokako once had a strong presence on Mt Pirongia, but constant pest threats meant the last of the birds were removed in the 1990s, Society chairwoman Clare St Pierre said.
The release of Rongomau and Rangimarie marks 15 years of hard work, she said.
"It's really special, I can't really describe it, it almost brought tears to my eyes.
"There are people here who used to hear the song of the kokako growing up and to have kokako back on Mount Pirongia after all of this time, it's something really amazing.
"We are really hoping they will thrive here and we will have a good healthy population in a few years time."
The end goal is the establishment of a self-sustaining, genetically diverse group of more than 500 kokako on Mount Pirongia, St Pierre said.
"This mountain is bigger than all of us, none of us can do it on our own, but together we can bring our maunga back to life."