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Last five Kakapo in Sounds going to Fiordland

Last five Kakapo in the Marlborough Sounds going to Fiordland

The last five kakapo on Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds will be flown to Chalky Island in Fiordland on Friday. (May 23)

The island has been used as a safe haven for the critically endangered species for almost 30 years but breeding has been minimal.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said the five birds, four males and one female, will be flown to Chalky Island which has recently been cleared of stoats. The father of one of the males was Richard Henry, the last surviving Fiordland kakapo. The other four kakapo were captured on Stewart Island.

“Maud Island has played a pivotal role in bringing kakapo back from the edge of extinction in the Kakapo Recovery Programme. It was the first island used as a refuge for kakapo in recent times, with the first two kakapo taken there in 1974 from Fiordland. Other endangered species recovery programmes for takahe and giant weta will remain on Maud Island,” Mr Carter said.

“Kakapo numbers were at their highest on the island in 2000 when 18 lived there. But while kakapo could live healthily and thrive on Maud the species has had little breeding success there. The only kakapo breeding on the island was in 1998 when three chicks were hatched and raised by the female kakapo known as Flossie who had been moved there from Little Barrier Island.

Mr Carter said kakapo are most likely to breed when there is an abundance of rimu or beech seed which provide vital food, and where pests such as rats and stoats have been eradicated. “With that in mind we are concentrating our kakapo conservation efforts on pest-free islands with rimu and beech forests which Maud does not have,” he said.

The transfer is supported by Ngati Kuia and Ngai Tahu in their roles as kaitiaki.

The total kakapo population stands at 86, their numbers having been boosted by a bumper breeding season on pest-free Codfish Island in Foveaux Strait last year in which 24 surviving chicks were produced. The Kakapo Recovery Programme, which is partly funded by Comalco, involves research and management aimed at increasing kakapo numbers through more frequent and productive kakapo breeding.

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