Keeping up-to-date with kākāpō

Keep up with the goings on in the habitat trial for kākāpō at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.

Bunker, Ōtepoti, Tautahi and Taeatanga continue to provide great data and insights as part of the fenced habitat trial at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.

The rangers found Bunker roosting underneath a tawa tree trunk last week. He passed his first health check as a 5-year-old and upon release he took cover under a fern, believing he was out of sight.

Tautahi has been spending most of his time in a valley where the nīkau palm trees are prevalent. During his latest check-up he provided some giggles as he insisted on standing upright with the poise of a butler while they checked the fit of his transmitter. 

After a spate of escapes earlier this year the team have been focused on vegetation clearance and daily location checks while continuing to test kākāpō management methods on the maunga.

Since then, just one bird has breached the fence. Ōtepoti made his way out twice in the last month. His movements were being tracked closely by a trial remote-download GPS tag which allowed rangers to find him promptly both times. These recent escapes have provided valuable data as we test a range of GPS tags to see how they function on the nocturnal manu in the mountainous terrain. Ōtepoti’s battery-powered tag enables us to check where he is remotely in real time. While it supported a quick response to his latest escapes, the tag has a short battery life and needs to be replaced often. With solar power not viable, work is ongoing to find a way to enable the battery powered tags to be used for longer periods of time.

The birds are still frequently found near the fence line. One new theory for this is that the easy travel and interesting food sources (such as blackberry and grass seed) around the perimeter could be why they enjoy ‘living on the edge’. If so, it could be that they are unintentionally ending up on the other side, rather than any drive to get out.

To further increase our knowledge about how the birds have been getting over the fence, we plan to run a trial in an enclosure within the sanctuary over the coming months. It will replicate the outer fence line but narrow down the area so cameras can be set up to help us observe any fence interactions.

As a short-term measure a supplementary feeding regime has been set up to encourage the birds inland. Taeatanga, who celebrated his 10th hatchday last month, was the first to be enticed and it appears the tasty temptations have helped him settled into a new home range a safe distance from the fence.


Tautahi - avoiding his transmitter change.

Posted by Tali Jellyman on May 03, 2024