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Endangered kakapo buried in landslide

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 16:08 04/06/2014
Female kakapo Maggie
Department of Conservation
BURIED: Female kakapo Maggie has died after being caught in a landslide on Codfish Island.

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A landslide has killed a critically endangered New Zealand parrot. 

Maggie - an adult female Kakapo - was found buried deep in mud and tree debris that had cut a path down the side of a hill on Codfish Island, near Stewart Island.

Data from the 36-year-old bird's transmitter confirmed she died on May 20.

Kakapo Recovery manager Deidre Vercoe Scott said the date of her death coincided with a period of heavy rainfall on the island which was believed to have triggered the landslide.

"This is the first death attributed to the forces of nature since the programme began and a reminder that they're wild birds living in a wild habitat."

At the start of the year, the kakapo population stood at 124. It was boosted to 130 following the successful hatching of six chicks.

But, Maggie's death was the third one during the past two months, bringing the total population down to 127.

In 1980, Maggie was the second female to ever be on found on Stewart Island.

''To die at the age of 36 - when kakapo potentially live more than 60 years - adds to the tragedy," she said.

"While we've always been aware that we will lose some of these birds in the short term - because they're potentially quite old - it's a real shame to lose a female who may have years of breeding ahead of her."

Vercoe Scott said it was unlikely the numbers would grow again anytime soon, at least on Codfish Island, because of low fruit counts on the rimu trees. 

She said the programme was taking cutting edge measures to ensure the long term survival of the species 

"Maggie's DNA had already been collected and cryopreserved along with other kakapo samples, in the hope that one day genetic technology advancements will allow it to be re-introduced into the future kakapo population."

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