Scientists have successfully stolen eggs from the nests of Auckland kokako and swapped them with birds on a sanctuary island on the Hauraki Gulf.
The trading-places deception is all in the name of genetic diversity: Breeding pair numbers are up by 20 per cent following the first successful egg swap where five fertile eggs were transferred between the nests of Hunua Ranges and Tiritiri Matangi Island kokako.
The wild egg transfer took place in the breeding season last summer, with the parents left to finish incubation and rear the chicks, Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Hazel Speed said.
The swap was a DOC and Auckland Council initiative to increase the biodiversity among the endangered bird's population.
Two chicks flourished in the Hunua Ranges Kokako Management area, and one on Tiritiri Matangi off the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.
More egg swaps are planned for the upcoming breeding season, as it's a simple way to improve genetics which doesn't stress the birds, Speed said.
The rarely-seen native bird hit the news recently when Duncan the kokako escaped from Ark in the Park open sanctuary in the Waitakere Ranges, and ended up in Glendowie in east Auckland.
Duncan is now back in the Ark in the Park open sanctuary, Auckland Council ecologist Sue Sinclair said.
“The control of mammalian predators, such possums, rats and stoats, and protection of native bush is essential to the survival of these birds," Sinclair said.
"If successful breeding programmes like the Hunua one continue then we may see kokako as regular visitors to our urban backyards in the future."
Monitoring of the Hunua kokako this year indicates the population is increasing. The last official census in 2010 recorded 24 pairs, she said.
"We are now confident of at least 30 breeding pairs in the Hunua Ranges."
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