Investigation underway after Kākā deaths

Date 15 November 2019

Dunedin’s Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary has reported that two kākā have been found dead locally this week and initial autopsies indicate that the birds were poisoned by an anticoagulant toxin. While testing is still underway, it’s possible that kākā have accessed bait from stations outside the ecosanctuary, where a possum control operation to eradicate TB is underway.

OSPRI, which manages the TBfree eradication programme, was informed of the kākā deaths on Wednesday afternoon and a response was initiated immediately. Contractors are removing all bait from bait stations in the entire operational area.

OSPRI Programme Manager Eric Chagnon says “We don’t know conclusively that the kākā died as a result of our work but we are doing everything we can to prevent any further damage. We held a meeting of key stakeholders on Thursday morning and our contractor has dozens of field staff on the ground removing bait. They’re prioritising their efforts and we expect the bulk of the bait will be removed by the end of tomorrow.

“We’re all devastated by the loss of these native birds, especially when everyone involved has been working so hard towards worthy goals – eradicating bovine TB and providing a huge boost to local biodiversity,” Mr Chagnon said.

“We’ve removed 20,000 possums from this area since our work began but any death of a native bird is regrettable. Our sympathy goes out to everyone involved in protecting these special birds, particularly the volunteers who are working so hard to protect them."

Anticoagulant toxins are available for public use and are widely used around the country where kākā are present with no known impact. However, kākā are naturally inquisitive birds, and Ōrokonui provides supplementary food for its kākā population as the species re-establishes. As a result, the birds from the sanctuary may be more inclined to investigate human-made structures such as bait stations than wild kākā.

“This is a setback for the TBfree Programme and for Dunedin’s ambitions to become predator free. OSPRI has put all possum control work in the area on hold. We’ll ensure that any methods we use in the future will be as safe as possible for local kākā. It’s our intention to eradicate bovine TB from the area and for there to be a net benefit for all local biodiversity.”

Anyone who sees any sick-looking kākā can contact the Department of Conservation on the DOC Hotline: 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

For further information


Eric Chagnon, Southern South Island Programme Manager, 027 511 9045

Predator Free

Mike Thorsen, Technical Advisor, 027 350 0175

Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary

Amanda Symon, General Manager, 027 557 9109 and Elton Smith, Conservation Manager, 027 333 7675

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