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Rotorua – The once-endangered kokako, among New Zealand’s most ancient birds, has been brought back from the brink of extinction and is thriving in the North Island.

About 20 years ago, the kōkako population dropped to as few as 330 breeding pairs around the North Island.

There are now 2000 breeding pairs of the secretive forest bird; more often heard than seen.

Kōkako’s ancestors may have been on the land mass that split from the supercontinent of Gondwana to become New Zealand about 83 millions of years ago.

Declared extinct by the Department of Conservation in 2008, the species’ conservation status was moved from extinct to data deficient in 2013.

North Island kōkako is no longer classified as threatened. The population is increasing as a result of intensive DoC predator control and reintroductions into parts of its range where it had become extinct.

The kōkako holds an important place in Maori mythology. Its extraordinary song,  a loud, long, slow-paced sequence of rich, organ-like notes is often used by filmmakers to evoke the sound of New Zealand native forests. It also features the NZ $50 note.

Predator control work has included ground control to suppress pests such as possums, rats and stoats in large, rugged areas.

DOC’s predator control efforts at four North Island sites – Mataraua, Waipapa Ecological Area, Mapara and Boundary Stream – have resulted in significant boosts to the bird’s populations.