Eighteen months after a $10,000 reward was posted for evidence the South Island kōkako is not extinct, over 100 possible encounters have been reported and the Reefton area is now top of the list.
The South Island Kōkako Charitable Trust said probably the most exciting and accessible area of strong interest was south of Reefton around Merrijigs, and also the Granville forest, 25km further down the Grey Valley.
Seven "very encouraging" reports had been received in the past 12 months, three of them from Stewart Island over summer, and two were particularly encouraging.
The trust said today its confidence in such reports comes from decades of experience. Trustee Ron Nilsson worked in most of these areas in the days of the Wildlife Service and has been compiling a database of reports for many years.
A further three reports of encounters have come from close to the Aorere Shelter at the northern end of the Heaphy Track. All three were based on bird calls.
"Our database includes several encounters from this area and other parts of the Heaphy Track, and, with sustained predator control in these areas, I'm reasonably optimistic that our South Island kokako could still be surviving there," Mr Nilsson said.
The trust had also received very credible reports from: the Milford Track (up the track from Sandfly Point), the Cobb Valley (Chaffee Hut), the Richmond Ranges (near mid Wairoa Hut), Doubtful River (Lewis Pass area) and most recently, Spur Track in Hanmer Forest Park.
However, a photograph remains as elusive as the bird itself.
"We still need definitive evidence - a photo or video - but we really feel that we are getting closer with the help of so many people who are out walking, tramping or hunting and know what to look and listen for. We are very optimistic that proof will be found soon."
- Greymouth Star