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South Island Kōkako: Wanted Alive

New Zealand offers $10,000 prize for photographic evidence of the Possibly Extinct South Island Kōkako, also known as the “Grey Ghost.”

There may be a ghost on New Zealand’s South Island and the South Island Kōkako Charitable Trust recently doubled the reward for photographic evidence to $10,000.

island conservation South Island Kokako poster

The Kōkako Charitable Trust is offering $10,000 for proof of sightings of the Possibly Extinct native New Zealand bird. Credit: South Island Kōkako Charitable Trust. Original image of North Island Kōkako by Tara Swan. Creative touches by Oscar Thomas and Geoff Reid.

The last confirmed sightings of the South Island Kōkako (Callaeas cinereous), also known as the “Grey Ghost” due to its shy nature and grey coloring, were recorded in 2007. Following re-classification in 2013 the species is listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. If this species is not extinct, a very small number remains. Invasive predators are a primary driver in the rapid decline of Kōkako offspring.

island conservation South Island Kokako illustration

While the North Island Kōkako has blue wattles, the South Island species had, or has, orange wattles. Photo: Wikicommons

In March 2017, a recording captured by conservationist Rhys Buckingham contains what is believed to be the call of the Grey Ghost.

Since then, 57 reports of possible encounters with the ever-elusive bird have recently surfaced. The eerie recording was played by national radio and New Zealand social media sent the call to every coastline and crevice of the country.

Nigel Babbage, Deputy Chair of the South Island Kōkako Trust, is convinced the ancient bird is still calling across the native bush. Although its existence is uncertain, locals in the region are dusting off camera lenses and refocusing their binoculars, hoping to catch sight of the elusive bird and receive the cash award. Babbage commented:

The bird is out there.

island conservation South Island Kokako forest

Paparoa National Park, South Island, New Zealand. Credit: Jon Sullivan

If evidence arises, the prize money will be awarded. Cash incentives aside, listening for a “Grey Ghost” call in hopes that future generations will also be to experience the spooky sound is a beautiful reason for conservation efforts to continue in the region. For now, the ghost hunt is in progress.

Featured photo: South Island, New Zealand Jon Sullivan
Source: RadioNZ

About John Brodie

John has recently received scholarship to enroll with Prescott College to study Marine Conservation via the Kino Bay Center in the Gulf of California. A storytelling career started while living in Sweden, searching for surf in the Baltic Sea. His writing and photography have since evolved into contributions in support of sustainable material efforts within the surf industry, publishing work with Patagonia and developing content for many-alike. New to Island Conservation, John is thrilled to join the communications team and to share the stories about saving island species from extinction. When not writing, you can find John and his dog surfing and camping along the West Coast.

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