Releasing the five kaka, Janeece Shieffelbien (left), Kay Noel, Murray Brown, Charlie Verry, and Kelvin Lochhead, with Pukaha Captive Breeding manager Raylene Berry. PHOTO/SARAH WATKINS/PUKAHA NATIONAL WILDLIFE CENTRE

Dear friends,

There is something very magical about releasing native birds into the wild.

Especially those that have been bred for release.

Perhaps it’s because we have an expectation that all wild birds should be wild?

Perhaps it speaks to the higher moral instincts of our humanity that freeing birds is the ultimate act of human compassion and kindness?

Perhaps we fill ourselves with hope and the possibility for life itself by seeing wild animals go free?

Wasn’t it Richard Bach who famously wrote, ‘if you love someone, set them free’?

It’s powerful, symbolic and emotive stuff and if you haven’t experienced a wild animal being returned to the wild habitat where it truly belongs, then we highly recommend that you do.

It’s much more than the act itself though.

Take our most recent release of kākā into the forest last December.

On the surface it was a day much like any other.

But if one looked closely it wasn’t.

This was the first time that kākā were being released into the wild at Pūkaha in over 10 years.

There was a sense of anticipation and immense excitement that had built up for weeks and months well before the event.

The four females and one male kākā being released had been reared by Pūkaha’s Captive Breeding Programme over the course of the past year.

Corporate sponsors Tumu ITM Masterton helped to name the birds with the help of staff and whānau members from throughout their organisation.

The lucky staff who put forward names that were chosen for a bird got to release it with the help of Pūkaha’s rangers.

The four male birds; Pipi, Whetū, Taonga, and Cheeky, as well as the one male bird, fittingly named Tumu, were all released at the Pūkaha Circus – a specialist kākā feeding site inside the reserve where rangers give their daily kākā talk.

The five birds are now truly free.

In time they may fly to the Tararuas and possibly even as far as Zealandia in Wellington.

If you see a yellow band on a kākā’s leg it could well be one of these five.

While the birds may be gone, the memories and smiles on the faces of those present during the release will remain for some time.

That’s what we mean when we say that releasing wild animals is more than the act itself.

It’s good for one’s own soul.

The Pūkaha Rangers.

Contributed by Alex Wall

  • The Wairarapa Midweek has partnered with Pukaha National Wildlife Centre to put a spotlight on wildlife conservation efforts locally and allow readers to get up close and personal with New Zealand’s amazing native species.


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