Extinction is like a full stop. It happens when the very last individual of a species dies. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has reported (June 2017) that one in three of our native bird species are at risk of extinction. Already in the Kaimai forest birds like kakariki and kokako are locally extinct.

But there are many steps along the road to the very last bird. The same report says that that four out of five bird species are ‘in trouble’. They are not gone from our forests, like kokako and kakariki, but birds whose numbers are getting fewer and fewer.

This makes it so encouraging to see so many robins in the Aongatete forest. A decade ago there were scarcely any. And riflemen have returned, almost it seems from the grave.

At Aongatete it is all down to predator control, which is so conspicuously lacking from the rest of the Kaimai Mamaku forests. The native birds could manage quite well by themselves but they can’t cope with rats, cats, dogs, pigs, possums and stoats. Animals in other countries have evolved with these predators and they can cope, but naïve New Zealand species can’t.

“The situation is desperate,” Dr Wright said in her report. The Commissioner recommends genetic techniques, ongoing 1080 use and the control or eradication of millions of feral cats.

The source of feral cats is pet owners. Never dump your unwanted cat or her kittens. If you can’t find them another home, do the right thing and take them to the vet to be euthanised. To leave them at the end of a road is cruel and cowardly. Most dumped felines starve to death but the few that survive become feral cats, breeding wild kittens, to be hunted and reviled through no fault of their own.