Kererū docos support Tūhoe conservation efforts

updated By Kereama Wright

Learn about the kererū for your own well-being, that is the theme of the documentaries launched in Te Urewera National Park by the Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust and Landcare Research. The groups have produced two documentaries about the wood pigeons to assist Tūhoe in their role as guardians.

The documentaries have been launched about the prized chiefly bird of Tūhoe.

Puke Timoti of Te Tuawhenua Trust says, "Of our special forest birds, the kererū is the most valued, it is the chiefly bird of the forest. Our relationship with the bird has waned and that important knowledge will eventually be lost." 

It is a message that Tuawhenua Trust in Ruatāhuna and Landcare Research have woven into two 56-minute long documentaries about the kererū.

"Our language and culture are shaped and guided by the birds, trees and our relationship with those treasures. How can we heal the land if we can't heal ourselves?" Timoti says.

A Waikato University masters student, Timoti has spent over five years researching this topic.

He interviewed 37 Te Urewera experts and was amazed by their accounts.

"The number of birds in a flock are very different to what we now know, right? This generation will say there are around 12 birds in a flock but back in their day there were over 50 birds in a flock, numbers so sheer it blocked out the sun," he says.

Wiremu Doherty of Ngāi Tūhoe says, "In time, your generation may see the same as well." 

"We must maintain those stories, teachings and customs regarding the grand forest of Tāne," Menu Ripia of Ngāi Tūhoe told Te Ao.

In 1922, the government banned Māori birding practices. In more recent times, the number of kererū seen in Ruatāhuna have declined.

"It wasn't poison or pests that wiped them out, it was allowing outsiders to come in and manage that process that is responsible for the decline," Timoti says.

The hope is that this responsibility will return to Tūhoe.

"How do we return to a state that will heal the land, birds, trees and all other life in the forest?" Timoti says.

The aim is to plant the seeds in the descendants of Tūhoe and also the Crown to grow their relationship with the environment.