Kakapo relocated to raise chicks

NEW DIGS: Iwi representative Hillary McGregor releases a kakapo on Little Barrier Island.
NEW DIGS: Iwi representative Hillary McGregor releases a kakapo on Little Barrier Island.

A group of seven critically endangered kakapo will be left to raise their chicks without help - a first in the long process to recovery for the flightless parrot.

The birds were transferred from their island habitat in the deep south yesterday to a new home on Little Barrier Island, off the Northland coast, where they will stay for at least ten years.

"There are only 126 kakapo left in the world and we need to see if they can survive and flourish without outside help," said Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson.

"This initiative could play a major role in securing the long term survival of the species."

Since the Department of Conservation stepped in to save the species in 1990, any new chicks have been intensively monitored, with staff giving support including supplementary feeding, artificial incubation and hand-rearing.

"The kakapo have been released on Little Barrier Island to see if they can successfully raise their chicks without aid," Wilkinson said.

"Their progress will be closely monitored and support will be provided if it's required to keep the birds alive."

Kakapo lived on Little Barrier Island between 1982 and 1999, when they were moved so the island could be cleared of rats.

It is expected to take up to 10 years to determine if the kakapo can bring up their chicks without assistance.

The kakapo or "night parrot" is unique to New Zealand and was pushed towards extinction by human colonisation and the introduction of predators such as rats, stoats and possums.

By 1995 only 50 kakapo were known to exist. Today there are 126 kakapo being managed by DOC on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, near Stewart Island, and Anchor Island, in Fiordland.

The transfer to Little Barrier is part of the Kakapo Recovery Programme, a joint initiative between the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Forest & Bird that dates from 1990.

It also includes running breeding programmes, maintaining predator-proof sanctuaries and strengthening the wild kakapo population. It combines the efforts of scientists, rangers and volunteers.

Auckland Now