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NZ Herald 24.11.1992


Young wekas shifting to new home


Twelve weka birds are to be released in the Karangahake Gorge, between Paeroa and Waihi, this weekend, as the start of a programme to reintroduce the threatened native species back into mainland bush areas.

The project, approved by the Department of Conservation, is being organised and carried out by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

Six of the birds, three females and three males, will be fitted with tiny radio transmitters so their movements can be tracked.


The organiser for the project, Mrs Ann Graeme. a conservation officer for the society based in Tauranga, said the 12 birds, all about four months old, had been bred in private aviaries around the country. They had been held at an aviary in the Karangahake Gorge for the past six weeks.

"In the past, there have been about 400 releases of wekas around the country, but they all appear to have failed, she said.

"We believe that is because those birds were adults, and they are very territorial, so the released birds have tried to make their way back to where they were taken from.

"We are hoping that by releasing young birds who have not yet established a territory, they will be encouraged to stay in the Karangahake Gorge area."

Mrs Graeme said the Karangahake area had been chosen because it was a small community, and its residents were keen to have a threatened native species there.

The birds without radio transmitters will be fitted with coloured leg bands, and school children and other residents are being asked to report any sightings of such birds.

"The school has a map, and will be charting all the sightings for us." Mrs Graeme said.


She said the society would be making farther releases as more chicks became available. It has a permit to release up to 100 birds a year in the area.

'They are a sociable bird, and we want to establish groups of them, but they are not proving so easy to breed," she said.

"We have a number of birds sitting on eggs, and we are learning about them all the time, but it is proving a more difficult project than we anticipated."

Local residents in the gorge are being encouraged to help the birds by putting out food scraps, and to ensure pet dogs are not allowed to roam.

Mrs Graeme said a senior university student would be studying the birds, and keeping track of their movements.

The radio transmitters and tracking equipment have been provided by Trilogy Computers, of Auckland.