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Kakapo chicks relocate to maximise survival

Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

14 April 2008 Media Release
Embargoed until 1am Monday 14 April 2008

Kakapo chicks relocate to maximise survival

Seven kakapo chicks that hatched just over two weeks ago on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) have today been transferred to specialised facilities in Nelson to ensure their survival, Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick announced today.

“I am thrilled with this season’s kakapo breeding success. The safe arrival of these chicks brings the total kakapo population to 92 and is testament to the dedication of the Department of Conservation in ensuring that these ancient and critically endangered birds continue to survive,” Steve Chadwick said.

Kakapo are an ancient species of nocturnal, flightless parrot, once found right throughout New Zealand, but due to human impacts and predation by a range of introduced mammals, kakapo are now threatened with extinction.

The chicks are being hand-raised in Nelson to optimise their survival chances. Kakapo mothers depend on ripe rimu fruit on which to feed their young, however this season the fruit on Whenua Hou did not ripen. Hand-raising has been carried out successfully in past breeding seasons, and hand-raised birds comprise 20 per cent of the surviving kakapo population.

"The Kakapo Recovery Programme is an internationally recognised successful model of endangered species conservation. It is an excellent example of business, the public and a government department working hand in hand, through the partnership of Rio Tinto Alcan NZ Ltd, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the Department of Conservation.

“I want to thank the many volunteers for their support and work in helping the recovery of New Zealand's most endangered bird. It is a reflection of the value that New Zealanders place on our natural heritage, to see the determination and dedication of the wide range of volunteers who are living in rather challenging conditions to enable these tiny chicks to survive.

“The Labour-led government is committed to the recovery of our endangered native species, and this intensive conservation effort is recognised worldwide as a flagship example of species recovery.”

Kakapo last bred in 2005 when four chicks were produced, but the record year was in 2002 with 24 chicks.

--

Background information:

* A high number of infertile eggs are produced by female kakapo.

* Fertility is confirmed using a method called candling – holding the egg up to torch light in a dark environment to see if an embryo is forming.

* The most recent breeding seasons on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island have coincided with the fruiting of podocarp forest, and particularly rimu trees, on the island.

* During the breeding season a large number of volunteers will assist the kakapo recovery programme on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.

* Kakapo are managed on two islands – Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, a 1400ha island located about 3km off the coast of Stewart Island and Anchor Island in Dusky Sound, Fiordland.

* Up to four full-time staff work on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island year-round making sure the birds are safe, healthy and well-fed. They only see or handle kakapo once or twice a year for their regular health checks. Most of the monitoring is carried out from a distance through the use of radio telemetry.

* Check out www.kakapo.org.nz for more information

ENDS

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