PF Olsen takes kokako under its wing

PF Olsen has recently become a major sponsor of the Kaharoa Kokako Trust, a Rotorua-based charitable trust that is working to save one of New Zealand's iconic forest birds.

The award-winning Trust was set up in 1997 to protect a remnant population of kokako living in the Kaharoa Forest, a conservation area north of Rotorua. The pest control work carried out by volunteers has enabled the kokako population to grow rapidly, making it the fourth largest of 18 known populations in New Zealand. This result makes a healthy contribution to the national recovery of kokako, a bird that is most famous for its distinctive, haunting song.

Chief Executive, Peter Clark says it is fitting for the company to support the continued protection of this endangered bird.

"As a significant land and forest manager throughout New Zealand we have a strong commitment to environmental values," he says.

Over the next three years, PF Olsen will help the Trust by making financial contributions to their 'Kokako Nest Egg', an investment fund set up to ensure ongoing pest control.

"We applaud and admire the work of the volunteers who have put so much effort into predator control to protect the birds at Kaharoa and want to see this put onto a sustainable footing," Peter says.

Trust ecologist Carmel Richardson says it is wonderful to receive support from PF Olsen because both parties have a shared interest in ensuring healthy forest environments. Although kokako favour mature native forest, plantation forests are home to many native species that provide abundant food.

"Any forest is valuable in terms of providing habitat for birds," Carmel says. "Kokako are known to benefit from plantation forest growing adjacent to their territory, which is a situation that occurs at Kaharoa. The type of native species that emerge in the understorey of plantation forests are generally very good food sources."

Kokako have the ability to fly, but prefer to run around in the branches using their powerful legs. Feeding on berries, leaves and insects, they occupy a similar ecological niche to squirrels in the northern hemisphere.

"Kokako are not known to nest in plantation forests, but they sometimes use large dominant pines as calling posts, where they mark their territory with song," Carmel says.

The continued survival of kokako depends on pest management, focused on possums and ship rats. Kaharoa Kokako Trust chair, Anne Managh, says the challenge for anyone working to protect native species is that constant funding is required to ensure pest control continues in perpetuity.

"The financial contribution from PF Olsen will go on protecting kokako long into the future and will benefit the health of the whole forest ecosystem at Kaharoa," she explains. "This sponsorship is an important milestone for the Trust as it marks the first sizeable funding contribution from a commercial business. Most of our previous support has come from the Department of Conservation and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, so it is exciting for us to attract revenue from another source."

Peter Clark encourages other private sector firms to help build the Kokako Nest Egg.

For more information on the Kaharoa Kokako Trust click on the logo to the right.