The Return of the Kākā - Part 1

Thanks To Us

From the Thorndon street where we’re living for some months, kākā can be seen or heard most days. When it rains they swoop through the pines and regrowth bush behind the house, and at night they circle the Botanic Gardens out the front. Their repertoire of calls come down, sometimes fluting and liquid, sometimes prehistoric squeers and squawks. Nearer the Karori sanctuary, people talk of kākā landing on their patios, or hanging upside down from spouting to peer in, eying the occupants for almonds or perhaps just for the hell of it.

To me this still seems nuts. When we were taken as kids—toothy and wrapped in eighties skivvies, no doubt—to the Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre, kākā were the species to revere the most. Their enclosure was first on my parents’ list—kākā and the kōkako, that haunting forest ghost.

More than the silhouettes I barely made out in the trees above, the odd flash of underwing, it was the reverence in my parents’ voices that struck me most, the awe in their faces as they looked up. It was from their reactions that we saw the moment’s significance. And kākā were then so rare that this was, it seemed, our only chance to experience such contact.

Now all that has changed, in Wellington at least, because somebody decided it should. They fenced the Karori reservoir and valley, essentially to keep us out. Stoats and possums too, and rats and the rest, but really it was us and all we’ve brought with us. A decision, then, to reverse our story, to rewrite it on one small patch of earth.

For many, that effort to recover a small part of Aotearoa’s original biodiversity—described on the Zealandia website as ‘paradise’—has completely changed city life. Now you can have contact with birds of extreme rarity simply by visiting the sanctuary, or walking the tracks near the fence—Wright’s Hill is particularly good for tīeke (saddlebacks) at the moment. But you don’t even have to leave the city, if you don’t want. You can just look into the trees and sky for kākā, listen for that discordant squawk.

Part 2