This website exists to create an awareness of the conservation plight of the South Island kokako, and to act as a central repository for the public to register encounters of South Island kokako.
The website is also a “clearing ground” for those who wish to openly contribute in their efforts to help save this magnificent and ancient relic of Aoteoroa's avifauna.
We know it exists. We want you to know too!
The South Island Kokako Charitable Trust (SIKCT) was founded in May 2010. There are 5 trustees being Ron Nilsson, Rhys Buckingham, Nigel Babbage, Euan Kennedy and Andrew Macalister. Rhys and Ron have made significant contributions over the years towards safeguarding some of New Zealand’s iconic wildlife, having been involved in the early conservation efforts to save the kakapo and Black robin. Amongst others we would also like to acknowledge the late John Kendrick who contributed much to the search for the South Island kokako. John was well known for his sound recordings of New Zealand birds which we often hear on National Radio.
A considerable body of scientific evidence has been gathered over the past thirty years in support of the continued existence of the South Island kokako. Yet due to the bird’s incredibly shy and secretive visual nature, coupled with its unusual nature of, very rarely producing vocalizations, it has proven impossible to date, to acquire unequivocal video or photographic evidence. Please refer to “Evidence” under “About”, for further discussion.
Herein, lays the controversy that has shrouded the Grey Ghost in mystery for many years, a misconception by antagonists that South Island kokako must behave like North Island kokako, which consequently are relatively conspicuous in nature. Antagonists could be forgiven for wondering why no video or photographic evidence, has arisen to date. Protagonists, who have had rare and brief encounters with South Island kokako, know full well, that nothing could be further from the truth.
Much of the historical evidence shows, that at least a proportion of the South Island kokako population at that time, was shy and elusive. Virtually all of the more recent evidence over the last thirty years, shows that the vast majority of encounters with South Island kokako, are of birds that are incredibly shy and elusive. At any one time, only a handful, of people have been dedicated to chasing these ghosts of the forest, in order to secure the unequivocal evidence, for all to see. Almost invariably, it has proven extremely difficult to get close enough to the birds, to get even a chance of gaining unequivocal evidence. Those that have sighted them, of which number some seventy observers that we know of (undoubtedly there are more we are unaware of) will attest to the elusiveness of this bird. If you are lucky, you are likely to get a view of the bird that lasts typically a few seconds (if you are exceptionally privileged perhaps half a minute), then, it glides off into the big green of the forest, and out of sight for good. Not much time to pull a camera from your pack for a photo, if you even have one at the time !
In 2007, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) officially declared the South Island kokako “extinct”, gone forever. Yet, the large body of scientific evidence, indicating this species still exists, was largely ignored in making this decision. The Trust is delighted that recently the status has been changed to 'data deficient'.
www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10419370 - DoC declares South Island kokako 'extinct'
Of interest, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (dated February 2010) regards Callaeas cinerea as "Endangered" (not extinct), the last assessment being 2009.
From 1990 to 2014, one hundred and thirty visual and aural encounters of South Island kokako have been reported. Of these, 57 were sightings, thought to be kokako. Many of these encounters, have been made by respected and experienced ornithologists and conservation personnel, including previous, and current employees of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and experienced ornithologists employed by the former New Zealand Wildlife Service. Other observations have been made by the general public including hunters, trampers, and trappers, with good experience and knowledge of New Zealand forest bird species. Many of these records are recent events (which have been subsequently investigated by SIKCT to establish their validity), indicating that there are still remnant South Island kokako populations scattered throughout the South Island.
Please refer to the pages under the Evidence drop down menu, for a fascinating and enlightening journey through an expose of the scientific evidence, in support of the Grey Ghost's existence.
Through Rhys Buckingham’s considerable dedication, he has been able to obtain some quite convincing sound recordings of the South Island kokako. These sound recordings have aroused the interest of many professionals in conservation circles. For example, Mathew Lark, who is a New Zealand bird vocalization specialist, stated, after analysing Rhys’s sound recordings, “I don’t know what you’ve got here Rhys, but it’s a new species !”
Some SIKCT members believe it is achievable to save the South Island kokako from extinction through intensive ground-based multi-species pest management, much akin to the in-situ techniques used to recover North Island kokako populations.
There is generally a strong correlation between known South Island kokako populations and the high abundance and diversity of other indigenous bird species, at these sites. General forest health and plant diversity are often significant features at these sites. In-situ pest management at these sites would benefit, not only South Island kokako, but a wide array of other endangered species, and essentially ensure long term protection of areas of significant biological diversity.
What is sorely needed in this respect is sponsorship and donations for active conservation management. SIKCT acts as a central contact agency in facilitating hands-on conservation initiatives between sponsors, donors, community and non-profit conservation groups and DoC.
If you have sighted, or feel you have heard a South Island kokako, please contact us under the Register Encounters page. It is important that we know about your recent encounter ASAP, as South Island kokako are generally only vocally active, and/or more visually conspicuous, for very short periods, typically only a few days.
If you contact us immediately on the Register Encounters page, there is a good chance we can promptly send a team of experienced ornithologists to the site for verification, and hopefully the gaining of unequivocal evidence.
We are still very interested in hearing from people with more “historic” encounters of South Island kokako. Every observation holds potentially valuable information, that help us to piece together the jig-saw puzzle about this bird’s life history (biology), which may prove invaluable for its long term conservation.
If you feel you have attained any evidence; visual, vocal, sound recording, feather, or moss grubbing please Register Encounters asap.
Arohanui from the South Island Kokako Charitable Trust.
Website originally developed by Monika Rudolf – Serenade Creations
Our sincere thanks to Monika.
Radio NZ - Search for the South Island Kokako Interview (18/2/2014)