Kakariki karaka in the Hurunui South Branch
Image: DOC | DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


The chattering call and vibrant plumage of the kākāriki karaka/orange-fronted parakeet can now be found in the canopy of the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary after 20 of the critically endangered parakeets were released today.

Date:  20 November 2021

The kākāriki karaka is a new species for the Brook Sanctuary, and this transfer has reintroduced it to the Nelson region. With just 360 left in the wild, the species is the rarest mainland forest bird in Aotearoa.

The budgie-sized birds were raised at The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust (ICWT) facilities in Christchurch. They were flown to Nelson in partnership with Air New Zealand on Thursday before spending two days in aviaries on site to acclimatise before their release.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Kākāriki Karaka Operations Manager Wayne Beggs says the transfer is a significant step forward for the species and reflects the hard work and successes of the recovery programme in recent years.

“The wild kākāriki karaka population is limited to a few Canterbury alpine valleys and an island in the Marlborough Sounds, so establishing new safe sites for this fragile species is vital.

“As well as helping expand the wild population, this new location will offer an important insurance policy if anything were to happen to the kākāriki karaka at other sites.

“Kākāriki karaka are highly vulnerable to predators like rats and stoats and their populations can be seriously impacted during years when the beech trees mast, or seed heavily, and predator numbers skyrocket.”

Brook Waimārama Sanctuary Chief Executive Ru Collin says they are proud to have been selected by DOC and iwi to receive kākāriki karaka, which is a taonga for Ngāi Tahu and Te Tau Ihu (northern South Island) iwi.

“The Sanctuary is a great site to reintroduce kākāriki karaka because it offers a large area of pristine beech forest with no introduced predators, which will allow them to survive and thrive.  

“Keeping predators out of the Sanctuary requires ongoing vigilance and we’re grateful for the support of our 300-strong volunteer team.

“In time, we expect to see the kākāriki population grow and expand out of the 700-ha Sanctuary into the Richmond Forest and out into the Nelson hills. This project has a great chance of leaving a wonderful legacy for the Nelson region.”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kākāriki karaka species recovery representative Yvette Couch-Lewis says the transfer will preserve the whakapapa of the manu.

“Even though these precious taonga have left our takiwā (tribal area) and the protection of our korowai, we will always be their kaitiaki. We’re asking the iwi of Te Tau Ihu to protect our manu and help the kākāriki karaka flourish in their new sanctuary.

“Kākāriki karaka were once found throughout Te Waipounamu, living on the plains and forest fringes. When our tīpuna were migrating for winter or summer, they used the waiata of kākāriki karaka and mohua to indicate where they were on their trail and how much further they had to walk.”

ICWT Operations Manager Bruce Rule says it’s the start of a bumper captive breeding season for kākāriki karaka, and with the addition of four new pairs at the facility, production is going well.

“Between ICWT and Orana Wildlife Park, at least 50 more birds will be ready for freedom by Christmas. We are thrilled there is another fantastic release site available for this special little bird.”

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese says Brook Waimārama Sanctuary is making great progress.

"The vision of the trust - bringing nature back to Nelson - continues to move forwards thanks to the Sanctuary staff, volunteers and the wider network of supporters and partners. Today marks another milestone in the advancement of that vision."

DOC works together in partnership with Ngāi Tahu to lead the Kākāriki Karaka Recovery Programme, with crucial support from The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, Auckland Zoo, Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch Helicopters, and the University of Canterbury.

The programme’s work includes extensive predator control through the kākāriki karaka’s mainland habitat, captive breeding, and maintaining a population on a predator-free offshore island.

Work to protect and recover the species recently received a significant boost through two Government-funded Jobs for Nature projects.

Air New Zealand is DOC's National Partner for Conservation and has supported DOC to fly over 4000 native animals and conservation dogs since 2012.


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Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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