Keeping kakapo alive

22:50, May 11 2009
FRAGILE THING: National Kakapo Recovery Team ranger Errol Nye holding one of the 22 kakapo chicks at their new Invercargill home.

Keeping alive New Zealand's most endangered chicks is a never-ending procedure of changing into white suits, gumboots, more white suits, feeding, washing, and sterilising for the National Kakapo Recovery Team.

And it's a full-on job when there are almost two dozen chicks needing around-the-clock attention.Twenty-two have been taken off Codfish Island, near Stewart Island, to a special location in Invercargill to be hand-reared to secure their survival.

The chicks are among 34 to hatch this breeding season, bringing the critically endangered population to 125.

Team leader Deidre Vercoe said bad weather during summer had meant not enough rimu fruit had ripened on the island for all 27 mothers to feed their chicks.

"We knew it was going to be a cracker breeding season, but we didn't know exactly how many chicks there would be, or if there would be enough food."

The team was prepared for the possibility hand-rearing a large proportion of the chicks.


The chicks at the location ranged from five days old to 40 days old.

About half were in a poor health and were separated from the healthy ones.

Kakapo ranger Errol Millar said the last two birds to be brought off the island urgently needed attention as they were suffering from a respiratory illness.

Stewart Island Flights had been "awesome" in helping the department ferry chicks off the island at short notice, he said.

Everything was kept as clean as possible to eliminate infection risks, he said. "In between working with the different birds it's cleaning, cleaning, cleaning."

About 10 staff, including a vet, are looking after the birds.The younger chicks need at least 10 feeds a day while the older ones are on about five feeds a day.

Chicks will remain in Invercargill until the end of June, when they will be returned to the island to live in monitored pens for about six weeks before being released into the wild.


The Kakapo recovery team needs:

New dark green or navy blue towels large and small

Anti-bacterial Mediwipes

New white Protector Safety paper overalls

The Southland Times