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Kakapo chick going south after big storm

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 16/05/2014
Fairfax NZ

Heather One was just two days old when Cyclone Lusi struck her home. It was touch and go, but she's a tough bird.

Heather One
Jess Etheridge
LITTLE FIGHTER: Heather One chows down on a carrot during one of her five daily feeds at Auckland Zoo.

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The kakapo chick that fought its way through a cyclone and battled pneumonia to stay alive has been flown to Invercargill from Auckland to make new friends.

Heather One weighed just 43 grams when she was brought to Auckland Zoo almost two months ago.

The little chick should have weighed around 101 grams, Department of Conservation's Leigh Joyce says.

The bird caught pneumonia and struggled to gain weight after Cyclone Lusi's high winds hit Little Barrier Island in March.

The island's kakapo population is closely monitored and Joyce says there was a camera in Heather One's nest when the storm struck.

Footage shows how difficult it was for the 10-day old chick's mother to feed her young.

"You can actually see the whole burrow distorting," Joyce says.

"You can see the roots moving, you can see the camera moving. Although Cyclone Lusi didn't come to much in Auckland, we had quite high winds and the whole tree was swaying."

Joyce had to intervene.

DOC rangers spent the night carrying Heather One down from the nest and took her to Auckland.

The zoo's conservation science and research manager Richard Jakob-Hoff says the kakapo was put in an incubator and fed parrot-rearing mix every two hours.

"When she came in she was actually very, very sick. We really weren't sure she was going to survive and so she had to have really intensive treatment for quite a while.

"It probably took 10 days to a fortnight before she really started to look well."

She was on a nebuliser to get medication straight to her lungs, as well as oral antibiotics and antifungal drugs.

Heather One had diarrhoea and her trip was initially delayed.

But the inquisitive chick was on the mend by the time she was relocated this week.

Zoo staffer Jakob-Hoff admits he's got a soft spot for the wee parrot.

"She's so cute. I mean we're not really supposed to get attached to them but I tell you what, it's impossible. She's so sweet.

"They're really intelligent. You can see that, the way she looks at you, you can see it in her eyes."

Heather One has now been flown to Invercargill to meet two other kakapo.

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