The first banding of kōkako chicks at Pirongia Forest Park whose parents were also hatched on Pirongia took place in early January.
The three 15-day-old chicks marked a standout milestone in the re-establishment of a self-sustaining kōkako population on the maunga by Pirongia te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society.
The banding of the chicks took place in the vicinity of the Sainsbury Rd pest control area and was the second of what is hoped to be a series of banding events this summer.
Clare St Pierre, the society's chairwoman, was there for the unforgettable occasion.
"These chicks are a culmination of thousands of hours of effort put in by us to have kōkako back on our maunga. We're absolutely thrilled to see nesting success for a pair of unbanded kōkako here, which are obviously the offspring of some of those first kōkako we translocated just three years ago," says Clare.
"It wouldn't have happened without our strong emphasis on pest control and following the advice of our kōkako ecologists. I want to thank all those who have put in all those hours with bait station filling, trapping and monitoring to deliver on our dream!"
The last surviving kōkako were removed from the mountain in the 1990s to stop them dying out but almost 20 years of targeted pest eradication programmes over the 1300ha area has seen the area transformed into a safe haven, not just for kōkako but also for a variety of other native birds.
Forty-four kōkako were reintroduced to the maunga in 2017 and 2018 and have been closely monitored by professional ecologists and community volunteers since then.
The group gives special thanks to kōkako specialists Dave Bryden and Amanda Rogers, who have been hard at work for the past few months monitoring nesting sites and reporting progress back to the society.
"The fantastic kōkako breeding success we've witnessed at Pirongia since the project began means that the population is now in its third generation, and growing rapidly," says Amanda.
"Last summer, there were four breeding pairs located, all within the society's management area. This season, the number of kōkako pairs located has more than doubled, thanks to the establishment of a number of kōkako hatched on Pirongia over the past three years.
"We are now monitoring nine breeding pairs, seven of which are within the area where mammalian predators are controlled annually by the society."
Five monitored nests have been successful so far this season, resulting in 11 fledglings, with more on the way.
"This is an example of what can be achieved when local community groups and individuals work together to control introduced mammalian predators. Restoring the mauri of the forest gives taonga species such as the kōkako the chance to thrive and re-establish over their former ranges," says Amanda.
A small number attended the banding including representatives from Fonterra Te Awamutu and Vilagrad Wineries, both of which have been supporters of the society's kōkako project.
Funding from Waikato Regional Council's Natural Heritage Fund and the Community Conservation Fund, as well as other contributors, have made the project possible.
The society's volunteer work and fundraising efforts will continue this year to support even more breeding success for kōkako next season.
The group will also be focusing on the development of a range of educational resources and programmes about conservation in the context of Mt Pirongia and Waipā River.
To volunteer, or for more information about the Society, visit www.mtpirongia.org.nz.