The kōkako, "the squirrel of the New Zealand forest", was once on the brink of extinction. Decades later, the quick and lively bird is back in abundance at the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in the Wairarapa, thanks to conservation efforts. In this bite-sized episode of Meet the Locals, host Nicola Toki (née Vallance) gets up close and personal with the skittish kōkako, alongside Pūkaha's Tony Silbury. A key part of the Māori legend of Māui, the kōkako filled its vivid blue wattles with water to deliver to Māui when he fought the sun; in return the bird was gifted with long legs.
They're one of the really old New Zealand birds; they've been here for millions of years. They grew up with the forest and because they couldn't cope with rats and possums, we almost lost them.– Department of Conservation staffmember Tony Silbury explains the history of the kōkako