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Cash reward for sightings of extinct bird

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/01/2017
An endangered Kokako © mlharing/Getty Images An endangered Kokako

New Zealanders able to provide confirmed sightings of what might be the world's rarest bird will also land themselves a handy cash reward.

That's because a trust dedicated to the South Island kokako has offered $5000 for information leading to confirmation it is still alive.

The native bird had been classified as extinct until 2013 when credible sightings led ornithologists to reconsider, saying there was not enough information to be sure it had died out.

South Island Kokako Charitable Trust chair Dr Euan Kennedy says it's critical that, if still alive, the bird is found.

"If South Island kokako still exist, there will be very few left. We need to locate them very soon so that conservation has a higher prospect of success," he said.

If found, the South Island kokako would not be the first bird believed extinct to be rediscovered.

The takahe, Chatham Island taiko and NZ storm petrel were all also rediscovered.

Conservationist Geoffrey Reid has been searching for kokako and says he has heard them calling to each other in multiple locations on the West Coast as recently as June 2016.

Farmers and hunters have also reported seeing and hearing birds matching the kokako's description.

"I have absolute faith that this bird is still out there," he said.

Despite having a recognisable call, one trouble in confirming the South Island kokako's existence has been that its song is similar to a tui.

For this reason, the trust has appealed for verifiable photographs or other physical evidence of the kokako's survival in native forest in Stewart Island and the South Island rather than claims to have heard its calls.

The trust will appraise any evidence received and submit the most compelling information for independent expert analysis.

The $5000 reward will be paid once a panel of New Zealand's expert ornithologists agree that the bird exists.

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