Maungatautari hapū and iwi to foster Ngāi Tahu kākāpō

Jul 19, 2023

Wednesday 19 July 2023

For the first time in more than a century, Ngāi Tahu kākāpō will be living on Maungatautari near Kemureti (Cambridge) under the protection of local mana whenua.

Four male kākāpō are being translocated from Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) near Rakiura (Stewart Island) to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. It’s the first time the manu (bird) will be living on the mainland in nearly four decades.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Deputy Kaiwhakahaere Matapura Ellison says the translocation is a major milestone for the taonga (treasured) species, which has doubled to reach a high of 252 manu over the past seven years.

“First envisioned more than 15 years ago, this move aims to safeguard the future of our vulnerable kākāpō.”

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is currently the only location on the mainland with the potential for a kākāpō population to be established. At 3240 ha, it is the largest predator-fenced habitat in the country.

As mana whenua of Maungatautari, Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Raukawa, Ngāti Hauā, and Waikato will watch over the kākāpō for Ngāi Tahu, caring for the manu as if they are their own tamariki.    

“Unfortunately, kākāpō are incredibly vulnerable to predators such as rats and stoats, and our predator free offshore breeding islands are almost at capacity,” says Matapura Ellison.

“We must now send our kākāpō to iwi and hapū partners in the north who have generously offered to protect our taonga through the concept of whāngai, the tikanga of fostering another tamariki.”

Ngāi Tahu and the Department of Conservation work in partnership to preserve and restore the mauri of the manu through the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kākāpō recovery group representative Tāne Davis has been working with kākāpō since for 18 years. He attributes a blend of mātauranga Māori and Western science to the success story of the manu.

“To keep the mauri of our taonga alive we have had to tweak our tikanga (traditions). Although I have felt mamae (hurt) at times, we have had to make the difficult decision to artificially inseminate kākāpō and practice double clutching to separate eggs from their parents, before hatching them using an incubator,” says Tāne Davis.

“Because the population is still low, we have also used genetic sequencing to trace the whakapapa linkages of our manu to reduce inbreeding and minimise abnormalities which were stopping eggs from hatching.”

Te Rūnaka o Awarua Representative Gail Thompson says the kākāpō translocation has the full support of Kaitiaki Rōpū ki Murihiku, who represent the four southern Papatipu Rūnanga and are kaitiaki of the kākāpō.

“We are very protective of our taonga and are reluctant to see them leave our rohe (area), but we know this is the right decision. As mana whenua, we are committed to making Rakiura (Stewart Island) predator free, so we can establish a strong population of kākāpō closer to home.”

The historic translocation will be marked with a pōwhiri at Pōhara Marae and celebration at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari today.

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