National | Animals

New addition to Rotorua nature park to protect endangered kōkopu

Around 2000 giant kōkopu will be released at Rainbow Springs Nature Park in Rotorua tomorrow, in a bid to keep up the breeding population of whitebait.

It’s part of the ARK project run by Mānaki, a business owned by Tahu-Whaoa Group Holdings and based at Warkworth.

Mānaki focuses on breeding whitebait for export and providing fish stock for the reintroduction of the giant kōkopu to places around New Zealand.

Breeding expert Paul Decker says the fish are already spread around places like Rainbow Springs, Kelly Tarltons, Napier Aquarium and the Auckland and Wellington zoos.

This is so that if anything threatens any of the wild whitebait populations, there will be a growing number of fish in other places to start a new breeding facility.

"Rainbow springs will have 2,000 of our fish which will be on public display so people can learn about them, and at the same time, should we ever need them back, we can always count on Rainbows Springs to come to the part to make sure we've got breeding fish," says Decker.

Giant kōkopu and whitebait

According to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research traditional whitebait habitats are under pressure from runoff, over-fishing, introduced species and human impact.

Four of five whitebait species are considered threatened due to declining numbers in New Zealand streams.

“Whitebait are the juvenile form of some of New Zealand’s most precious native freshwater fish: inanga, kōaro, banded kōkopu, giant kōkopu and shortjaw kōkopu.”

The giant kōkopu can reach a size of 300-500 mm and weigh up 2.7kg.

The fish will be released at Rainbow Springs privately at 1pm tomorrow.