Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Zealand Breeds More Kakapos

New Zealand researchers are over the moon about the record number of Kakapo chicks hatched this year.  Thirty-seven have survived so far making a record season in more than twenty years of conservation.  The Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is New Zealand's rare, endemic parrot.  Because it cannot fly, the ground dwelling, nocturnal parrot succumbed to introduced predators, human hunters and loss of old growth forests where it lives. Once found all over the two main islands the world's heaviest parrot numbers about 125 is now protected on a few predator-free islets.  They disappeared from the North Island in 1840.  At one point they were thought to be extinct, but a male and female were found on Stewart Island in the 70's. They reached their lowest number of 18 in 1977.

Rangers use technology to keep track of the remaining birds, record which parrots are mating and brooding behavior.  All known kakapo have names too.  Their data is transmitted by satellite to kakapo conservation headquarters.  Talk about being watched!  The hope is that the birds will increase to sufficient number that they can be left to their own devises in the wild.  The intense conservation efforts include genome sequencing of every known kakapo, artificial insemination and supplementary feeding to increase productivity.