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Kākāpō Recovery and Zoo team up to save kākāpō chick

Kākāpō Recovery and Zoo team up to save kākāpō chick

A critically ill 10-day old kākāpō chick flown from Hauturu o Toi (Little Barrier Island) to Auckland in late March is now thriving at Auckland Zoo following an intensive team effort by Zoo and Department of Conservation (DOC) Kākāpō Recovery staff.

‘Heather One’, one of six kākāpō successfully bred this season, and the first chick to hatch on Hauturu o Toi since kākāpō were reintroduced there in 2012, was severely underweight and failing to grow, putting her life in jeopardy.

Mother Heather’s inability to access enough ripe natural food to feed her chick and stormy weather from Cyclone Lusi are thought to have been likely contributing factors to Heather One’s shaky start to life.

“It’s incredible to see how she’s pulled through in the five weeks she’s been here. It was touch and go for a while, but kākāpō are incredibly hardy birds,” says Auckland Zoo’s senior vet, James Chatterton.

“We’ve had the combined skills of our vet team, keepers with kākāpō experience, the expertise of DOC’s Hauturu kākāpō ranger Leigh Joyce, and invaluable support from the South Island-based Kākāpō Recovery team providing Heather One with around-the-clock care. It’s really been an amazing team effort to get her health back on track,” says Dr Chatterton.

Heather One, who hatched on 12 March, now weighs almost 1 kg (close to average for her age) and is becoming more active and vocal by the day.

From Saturday 3 May (11am-3pm daily) at the Zoo’s NZCCM viewing gallery, visitors will be able to view into the surgery room where Heather One is being cared for.

Kākāpō Recovery is a partnership between DOC, the New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS), and Forest & Bird.

DOC Kākāpō Recovery programme manager, Deidre Vercoe, says the chick will remain at the Zoo for the next week or so until test results confirm she has a clean bill of health and can be integrated with other kākāpō chicks.

“Once we get the all-clear, we’ll move Heather One to our Invercargill facility to join two other chicks that are also being hand-reared before we look to release them onto Whenua Hou(Codfish Island). In the meantime, we’re delighted that Zoo visitors have the opportunity to see and learn more about this extraordinary bird that we’re working hard to ensure has a healthy future,” says Ms Vercoe.

The Kākāpō Recovery manager says the successful breeding of six chicks (four males and two females) this season increases the world’s kākāpō population to 128 birds.

“We’re absolutely stoked that breeding has occurred so soon after transferring a small number of birds to Hauturu o Toi. The island could play a significant role in the long term security of the kākāpō population.”


Kākāpō Fast Facts

• The kākāpō endemic to New Zealand, and one of the rarest and heaviest parrots in the world. It is nocturnal and can be found feeding on the ground or 20m up a rimu tree.

• Kākāpō only breed every three to four years, and breeding is dependent on the masting (fruiting) of rimu and several other New Zealand native berry-producing trees

• Six chicks (four males and two females) have been bred this season, increasing the kākāpō population to 128 birds.

• There are currently five adult male and four adult female kākāpō on Hauturu o Toi (Little Barrier Island) . Heather (33 years) has produced the two female chicks this season. Kākāpō are also on Whenua hou, Codfish Island and Anchor Island.

• Kakapo Recovery is a partnership between DOC, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS), and Forest & Bird. Established in 1990, it is DOC’s longest running partnership. When the partnership began there were only 49 Kākāpō remaining and now with the chicks born this season there are 128.

• Over the last 24 years, NZAS have contributed $4.35 million to DOC’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme plus an estimated $100k through maintenance and volunteer support.

• DOC’s long- term kākāpō recovery goal is to have 150 females at three separate sites, one of which is self-sustaining.

• Auckland Zoo’s veterinary services team is the supplier of veterinary services to the Kākāpō Recovery Programme (KRP)


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