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The Buff Weka became extinct on Mainland NZ in 1920, but in 2004, 30 Buff Weka from the Chatham Islands were released onto Mou Waho Island in the middle of Lake Wanaka. Over 130 years ago just 12 birds were released on the Chatham Islands - these birds saved the Buff Weka from extinction.
Just after their release on the island, a feisty young banded male weka made himself known! Dubbed Wally Weka, due to his quirky behavior, Wally saw a real estate opportunity and he very quickly claimed the lake and a large territory around it, including “The Penthouse” which is the rock above it. Now he just needed someone to share it with.
Wally had "Location, Location, Location", and soon after that very year, had met a cute chick dubbed Sally Weka, and along came the first generation of chicks hatched out in the wild. That very year, they produced 3 chicks; Huey, Dewey and Louie. The rest is history.
In the past 11 years we have seen 19 chicks from these two charismatic birds - sometimes 3 in the spring, then after 5 weeks, they have to "get a haircut and get a real job" and find their own territory, and are chased away to the far cliffs...They could have a further 2 chicks in the late Summer some years. In their twilight years Wally and Sally started producing single chicks, and for the last 3 years we saw the arrival of Wilson Weka, Piri Weka, and Richie Weka!
As these Wekas only live to 15 years in captivity, Wally and Sally in the wild together for at least 11 years are still producing the goods – possibly due to Wally supplementing his diet with Omega 3/Fish oil by catching fresh water fish from the Arethusa Pool 150m above Lake Wanaka (Unheard of behavior before.)
Wally is the last bird standing from those first 30 liberated on Mou Waho Island in 2004 – and this is known by his banded left foot, however DoC and I estimate there are between 150-250 offspring on the island doing very well.
This predator free island is the only place on Mainland NZ you can see these "ecologically naive" birds in any numbers. Far more curious that the other semi-street wise weka species seen throughout the country. Unfortunately, this gullibility is this particular species downfall, sadly.
Mou Waho Island can be found in the middle of Lake Wanaka – reached by a 20 minute boat cruise. There is a gorgeous bush walk up onto the island to the “lake on the island on the lake” and more often than not, you will meet the friendly Wally, Sally and family somewhere near their ‘Penthouse.’
You can visit Mou Waho Island with us at Eco Wanaka Adventures on our Lake Cruise and Island Nature Walk. Please get in contact for more information and bookings.