Kākāpō milestone

Sanctuary Mountain® Maungatautari and Ngāti Korokī Kahukura have been working in partnership with the Department of Conservation Kākāpō Recovery Group and Ngāi Tahu to provide a safe haven for kākāpō. This will be the first time these precious taonga will have lived on mainland New Zealand in close to 40 years. This is a story that has been decades in the making.

Kākāpō are critically endangered. There are just 248 in existence. Four manu/birds (Bunker, Māhutonga, Motupōhue and Ōtepoti) were translocated from Whenua Hou/Codfish Island near Rakiura Stewart Island in July 2023. A further six kākāpō, Elwin, Kanawera, Manawanui, Tautahi, Taeatanga and Manaaki joined Bunker, Ōtepoti, Motupōhue and Māhutonga were released in September. The 10 kākāpō are all males.

They need pest-free refuges like Sanctuary Mountain to provide suitable habitat for their growing population.

It is still unknown whether they will successfully establish here long-term. The main focus of this translocation is to learn if kākāpō can thrive in a North Island fenced sanctuary, while taking pressure off the offshore islands which are almost at capacity.

Nocturnal masters of camouflage

Kākāpō are wild birds, and we are providing a natural habitat for them. They will not be in the southern or northern enclosures.

Experts from the Kākāpō Recovery team and specialist biodiversity rangers from Sanctuary Mountain will be keeping an eye on them using conservation monitoring technologies. It is incredibly challenging to find them, even for experts with specialist monitoring equipment.

The best thing we can all do is allow them to settle into their new habitat undisturbed.In the future we hope to be able to develop educational interpretation which shares more of the story of kākāpō, for visitors to learn all about these curious and charismatic manu.

Imagine in future years hearing their distinctive ‘booming’ calls across the Waikato landscape for the first time in generations.

Credit: Karl Drury, Department of Conservation

It is a great privilege to visit Sanctuary Mountain knowing that you are in the presence of critically endangered kākāpō. By visiting or by donating to us, you help us continue to take care of the protected forested environment on Maungatautari, ensuring a haven for many of New Zealand’s most rare and endangered wildlife, which now, incredibly, includes kākāpō.

Where can I find out more?

Department of Conservation Blog: Restoring the mauri of kākāpō in AotearoaBy Andie GentleDOC Kākāpō Advocacy.

There are a number of good sources of information on these incredible manu: Department of ConservationKākāpō Recovery Programme, New Zealand Birds Online.