Singing for the Kokako's successful return

10 March 2017Kokako Fundraiser

Dame Malvina Major and several Waikato rising stars put on a song-filled evening for Kokako enthusiasts earlier this week, raising over $7000 to help return the native songbird to Mt Pirongia.

The fundraising event, organised by Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society and hosted by Vilagrad Winery, included musical performances, dinner and a charity auction, with all proceeds going towards the translocation of the Kokako to Mt Pirongia.

Clare St Pierre, Society Chairperson, was delighted with the success of the event and the generosity of the community.

"We were blown away by the way people are coming together to support our cause. This evening has been a fantastic start to fund what has been at the heart of our group from the start - to bring the Kokako call back to our maunga.”

Performers included Waikato based soprano singers Chelsea Dolman and Cecily Shaw, and violin player Rachel Twyman. Dame Malvina Major, who became the national ambassador for the Kokako after falling in love with its “ethereal” song, surprised guests by accompanying her students on stage to sing the closing song Pokarekare Ana.

Various donated items were auctioned off by MC Mark Bunting, including native bird themed art and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to personally release a Kokako onto Pirongia Mountain, which eventually went for $500.

The funds are being raised to pay for a professional ecologist to oversee the capture, release and monitoring of 40 Kokako over the next three years, and any associated equipment. The first release is expected to happen in April.

The predator control work, which has made the translocation of the endangered songbird to Mt Pirongia possible, is carried out by dedicated volunteers from the community. As Clare St Pierre put it, instead of a fence around the mountain to the protect the birds, they have "a ring of hearts”.

Dr Te Taka Keegan, a supporter of the project, spoke of the spiritual significance of hearing the Kokako song on Mt Pirongia again for local Iwi. He said that some of the returning birds would be direct descendants of those original birds relocated from Mt Pirongia to island sanctuaries in the 1990s (an effort to safeguard their DNA), and their birdsong might still retain characteristics unique to the Pirongia area.

The Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society started working towards the goal of reestablishing a kokako population on Mt Pirongia in 2006, and since then has been reducing the number of predators in preparation for its return.

If you are interested in making a donation or volunteering, visit the Society’s website

Written by Sarah Thomson