Mapara Kokako Reserve
Mapara Wildlife Reserve lies 35 kilometres (45 minutes drive) south east of Te Kuiti, along Mapara South Road. Kokako can be heard and sometimes seen from a moderately graded tramping track.* You are most likely to hear Kokako call in the early morning or late evening.
The Kokako is one of New Zealand’s most ancient birds. It belongs, along with Huia and Saddleback, to the endemic wattlebird family. Huia are now almost certainly extinct, while Saddleback are restricted to predator-free offshore islands. Once common in many North Island lowland forests, Kokako populations in unmanaged forests are declining rapidly. The largest remaining populations occur in the northern half of the North Island. Slightly bigger than a Tui, the Kokako’s blue-grey body has brownish tinges on the wing and tail feathers, while the bill and legs are shiny black. There is a distinctive velvet black mask across the face. The adult Kokato has a pair of bright blue wattles at the base of the bill. These are pink or lilac in the juvenile. Kokako are poor fliers owing to their short rounded wings. They hop and run through the different layer of forest and glide or dive from the tallest trees. Kokako are world renowned for their hauntingly beautiful song. As one pioneer put it – "the sound of the Kokako is like the sound of the wind through the mouth of a whisky bottle – sadly reminiscent of departed spirits". To get there go south on SH3 and turn onto SH4 heading to National Park.
History of Mapara
Since 1989 the Mapara Wildlife Reserve (1400 hectares) has been the focus of an intensive and very successful conservation management project. When the project started the reserve’s Kokako population was in decline. Since management was initiated breeding success has steadily increased. On average ten chicks fledged each year for the first four years of the project. These chicks became the core of a young and healthy breeding population which produced a stunning 54 chicks in the summer of 1994/95. For the first time in recorded Kokako history all pairs that attempted to breed were successful and half of these went on to fledge two broods of chicks.
Animal control efforts include:
- Fencing to exclude goats and domestic stock
- Annual poison operations for rats and possums
- Trapping of stoats, ferrets, weasels and cats
- Goat hunting
In the first three years of the project, annual aerial 1080 drops drastically reduced rat and possum numbers. Now their numbers are monitored regularly and maintained at very low levels by an intensive ground-based poison operation using bait stations.
Between 1989 and 1995 a 24 kilometre line of 142 fenn traps in the reserve caught 257 stoats, 113 weasels and 91 ferrets. In addition 8,200 goats were shot in the reserve between 1978 and 1995.
- Caution - For their own safety, please do not take dogs into the reserve, poisoning operations are carried out frequently. An information board is situated at the start of the track. Guided walks may be available by prior arrangement with the Department of Conservation.
* Please do not go elsewhere in the reserve or trespass on neighbouring farmland.