Our keepers lend their expertise in projects much farther afield in the wider Pacific region, to assist with recovery efforts for threatened species. One such species is the kākerōri or Rarotongan monarch which is endemic to Rarotonga.

Earlier this year, bird keeper Devon journeyed to Rarotonga to help with banding (placing a small coloured band on a birds leg) of wild monarchs for future identification. The team, led by DOC scientist Hugh Robertson, carry out this work every year. This regular banding work ensures that when the kākerōri census rolls around every three years, it is possible to identify individual birds and make an accurate population estimate.

As you’ll see in these images, the juvenile birds have bright orange plumage. These feathers will eventually turn grey as they mature.  

Kākerōri are small yet long-lived birds, but unfortunately their numbers were severely impacted by the introduction of black rats and feral cats to the island. Thankfully intensive trapping has made population recovery possible, and in the most recent 2022 census 612 birds were counted. This is an incredible achievement from just 29 birds counted in 1989! During her ten days on the island, Devon was able to use her zoo husbandry skills to carefully band 17 of the birds they captured in mist-nets.

Devon explains, “It was such a privilege to get to see these beautiful birds in their natural environment. The terrain was quite a change from what I’m used to and provided amazing views as well as a challenging climb. The kākerōri are very inquisitive and make a lot of noise for their small size, I found it interesting to see the changes in plumage as we caught birds in varying life stages”.  

You help to support work like this every time you visit the Zoo or donate to our Conservation Fund. 

Learn more here