Monday, February 9, 2009

Island Sanctuary

Mokoia Island. Aerial View. Image supplied by Wai Ora Group
Lake Rotorua’s Mokoia Island is a private tribal island owned and governed by four local hapu (tribes) of Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Uenukukopako, Ngati Rangiwewehi and Ngati Rangiteaorere. It has held a prominent place in Maori cultural history and its fertile soils saw early Te Arawa people using it to grow food crops – especially the kumara (sweet potato). Today it provides an excellent example of partnership conservation -the island’s restoration and protection is headed by the Mokoia Island Trust Board while the Department of Conservation provides technical advice and practical support; and DOC in conjunction with Mokoia Island Wai Ora Experiences carry out a quarantine check of all guests visiting the island, in order to protect the breeding programme of several of New Zealand’s most precious native birds.
Guided Mokoia Island Tour. Image Supplied by Wai Ora Group

Top: Tieke or Saddleback. Bottom: Kakako. Images supplied by Wai Ora Group.
Access to Mokoia Island is strictly limited to permitted operators only - the team at Mokoia Island Wai Ora Experiences for instance. They run a number of fascinating tours that give visitors an insight into this beautiful, mysterious place. I particularly like the sound of their Birds of Mokoia tours. Mokoia is New Zealand’s only inland island bird sanctuary and it has New Zealand’s largest population of Tieke (Saddleback), a bird that takes its English name from the band of colour running across the adult bird’s back. According to Maori tradition, the saddle marking was caused by the man-god Maui when he scorched the feathers of the bird after capturing the sun. In addition you’ll see tui, weka, toutouwai (North Island Robin), kokako and kiwi. (Like the extinct Huia, the kokako and tieke are part of the Wattlebird family and are found nowhere else in the world).

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