Boosting the survival of the rare kōkako bird


We’re proud to have partnered with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to support Kāpiti Island’s first translocation of threatened kōkako in nearly two decades.

Eleven of the birds, often called ‘grey ghosts’ because of their black mask and distinctive colouring, were gifted in a ceremony in early July before being released to join the 100 pairs of kōkako already resident on Kāpiti, on the south western coast of the North Island.

Credit: Stuff and DOC

Fonterra Brands NZ Managing Director Brett Henshaw says “We approached DOC wanting to support a significant conservation project in the Kāpiti region which recognises and appreciates the cultural and community significance of Kāpiti Island.

Fonterra's Kāpiti brand has a strong connection with the region so we are we are delighted to be playing a role reigniting this important translocation programme.

"Fonterra's partnership will help to ensure the national kōkako population remain strong and viable into the future."

After years of decline, the bird population is slowly starting to recover, and in March, their recovery reached the important milestone of 2,000 pairs in the wild.

Pest-free Kāpiti Island has been a big part of that success. DOC ranger, Lee Barry says the island’s kōkako population had about doubled in the past three to five years, and it was time to introduce some new blood. The new kōkako were transported from Pureora Forest in the Waikato with the help of local iwi Ngāti Toa, Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai and Ngāti Raukawa.

Fonterra's partnership will help to ensure the national kōkako population remain strong and viable into the future.

Brett Henshaw, Managing Director, Fonterra Brands NZ

The translocation is part of a new five-year partnership between our Co-Op and the Department of Conservation (DOC) which will see around 35 kōkako introduced to the island over the next two years to top-up the numbers and add genetic diversity to the existing population.

The kōkako on Kāpiti have been breeding well, but with such a small number of founders, the population is not as strong as it could be. With the birds breeding so quickly, available territories on the island would soon be full.

DOC Technical Advisor and member of the Kōkako Recovery Group, Tertia Thurley, says the partnership couldn’t have come at a better time, “The window of opportunity to add new birds was closing quickly. The partnership with Fonterra has enabled this crucial work to happen just in the nick of time,” she said.

The original colony was established 30 years ago from 33 Kōkako, and they have been safe and protected on Kāpiti Island since. The island has been predator free since the removal of rats in 1998.

Fonterra’s Margaret O’Sullivan, Haley Mortimer and Bridget Service were among those on the island for the special event


  • The kōkako is known for its beautiful, haunting song
  • It’s also famous for featuring on New Zealand’s $50 note
  • They are poor flyers, only gliding short distances and preferring to hop around
  • The kokako as voted Bird of the Year in 2016 in the hotly contested Forest & Bird competition
  • Member of an ancient endemic wattlebird family that includes the saddleback and extinct huia