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Wanted: South Island kokako – preferably alive

Photo: Tara Swain, Oliver Thomas and Geoff Reid

If you can prove the South Island kokako is still out there, you could be looking at a $5000 reward.

The South Island Kokako Charitable Trust is offering the reward to anyone who can show confirmation that the rare bird is still alive. An endemic species unique to New Zealand, it was once widespread in the south, but was thought to be extinct until credible sightings in 2013 changed its classification.

Trust Chair Dr Euan Kennedy said the unprecedented campaign is “urgent”, and that the success of the species depends on it.

“The reward we are offering for definitive evidence of survival is part of our strategy to broaden the search effort,” Kennedy said in a statement. “We are inviting the public, birders and other backcountry users to be our eyes and ears everywhere in our southern forests.”

The trust has said rather than claims from those who say they’ve heard the kokako calls, they would prefer a verifiable photograph or other physical evidence of the bird. They will pay a reward once a panel of New Zealand expert ornithologists agrees that the bird exists.

There have been claims of its existence as recently as June 2016; environmentalist Geoffrey Reid believes he heard several on the West Coast, and that local farmers and hunters told him they’d seen a bird that matched the kokako’s description. “I have absolute faith that this bird is still out there!” Reid said in a statement.

If the kokako is still flying through the backcountry, the trust said it would likely be found in native South and Stewart Island forests, in areas with sustained pest control.

For more information about the kokako or to report a sighting, contact the trust via its website, southislandkokako.org.