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Orange-fronted parakeet recovery update

28 April 2004

Orange-fronted parakeet recovery update

Progress with the orange-fronted käkäriki (parakeet) recovery programme is currently exceeding expectations with 21 healthy käkäriki now held in captivity.

As part of the programme the Department of Conservation (DOC) is rearing käkäriki chicks in captivity to insure against their extinction in the wild and to provide birds for release onto predator free islands.

“We now have eight females and 13 males from mixed genetic stock held,” said Andrew Grant, DOC’s advisory scientist, “when this time last year we had none. This is much better than we expected.”

“The programme has broken new ground with each nest harvesting operation as we have been learning about moving chicks at different stages. We have relocated eggs, chicks and, last week, chicks which were near to fledging (leaving the nest). Unfortunately we lost three of the eight chicks in our latest transfer from the Hawdon Valley to Isaacs Wildlife Reserve. We suspect that older chicks get more stressed than younger birds but we will have to wait for the autopsy results to be sure.”

DOC is now beginning a breeding programme with the captive population, and release of käkäriki onto a predator free island is likely by the summer of 2004/2005.

“Last May a käkäriki population was discovered in the Poulter Valley, Arthur’s Pass National Park, bringing the number of populations of orange-fronted parakeets in Canterbury to three,” continued Mr Grant. “More searches will continue this year with the hope of finding further populations.”

Further good news for the wild populations is an abundance of beech seed this autumn. This is likely to extend the käkäriki breeding season through the winter.

Planning and preparation for Operation Ark, DOC’s initiative to respond to predator plagues, is in full swing. If predator numbers increase in orange-fronted parakeet habitat as a result of heavy beech seeding, they can be controlled.

“Chances of orange-fronted parakeets surviving in the wild are definitely improving,” said Mr Grant, “and recognition by the Minister of Conservation for them as a priority species is helping this to happen.”


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