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Breakthrough in threatened species management

14 February 2002 Media Statement

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says the 47-eggs of the endangered kakapo that have been found on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou, represent one of the biggest breakthroughs in years for New Zealand species management.

Ms Lee says if only half the eggs successfully hatch, this will represent a one-third increase in the world population of kakapo birds.

"This is outstandingly good news and has real potential to reward decades of intensive efforts to bring this threatened species back from the brink of extinction," she said.

Ms Lee said the successful breeding season on the Southland offshore island has been attributed to an abundance of rimu seeds—a kakapo delicacy—and the ability of Department of Conservation staff to find supplementary food.

She said the Comalco-sponsored Kakapo Recovery Programme, which began in 1990, has enabled DOC to invest in researching the nutritional needs of the birds to maximise their egg-laying capacity, resulting in the current "avian harvest."

DOC Kakapo Recovery Team leader Paul Jansen said 17 females were nesting on the 47 eggs on the southern island.

“In the past few days the rate of egg laying has been fantastic. This is the tally as of today (Thursday, 14 February) and by tomorrow it will probably be outdated. This is the best kakapo breeding season we are aware of.

“One highlight of the season is seeing females lay eggs that have not laid before that we are aware of. For example Bella-Rose is sitting on four eggs - the largest known clutch size for kakapo. She has not laid since 1981 and possibly longer.

“We expect that at least 50 per cent of the eggs will successfully hatch. If this breeding season continues in the way its started, in three to five years we will be able to reduce the human intervention needed to ensure the survival of this species. This is the ultimate aim of any recovery programme,” Mr Jansen said.

“Another initiative under the Comalco-sponsored Kakapo Recovery Programme is the nest minder programme. This entails a camera filming every nest continuously, and people watching the footage to ensure the mother is getting enough food and does not abandon the nest,” Mr Jansen said.

Comalco New Zealand Executive Director Kerry McDonald said he was delighted with the number of eggs laid.

“It is great to witness the kakapo benefit from the research and investment in this recovery programme. Comalco New Zealand staff are looking forward to the hatching of the chicks and the resulting boost to the kakapo population with excitement,” Mr McDonald said.

The partnership between Comalco New Zealand and the Department of Conservation is managed through the Threatened Species Trust programme.

The trust is made up of DOC, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of NZ Inc, the New Zealand Conservation Authority and corporate sponsor representatives.


ENDS


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