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Successful transfer of young kakapo

9 July 2004

Successful transfer of young kakapo to Aphrodisiac Isle

Department of Conservation staff achieved a 97 per cent success rate last weekend in the largest ever kakapo transfer between island sanctuaries.

The move of 18 juvenile and 13 adult kakapo, more than one-third of the total kakapo population, between Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) near Stewart Island, and Te Kakahu (Chalky Island) off Fiordland was attempted to increase their rate of breeding success.

"We think these young kakapo are in a fast learning phase and will be able to soak up a lot of new information about foodstuffs and habitat on Te Kakahu," DOC kakapo recovery team leader Paul Jansen said today.

"If this is so, the 2002 chicks will be able to learn about feeding in beech forest and consider beech seeding, which occurs more frequently than rimu seeding, as an environmental trigger for breeding. It hasn't all been plain sailing, however."

Of the 31 birds transferred, one female named Aroha was found dead by DOC staff on Te Kakahu yesterday afternoon (8 July). Aroha had been transferred from Whenua Hou five days earlier.

"All of us in the kakapo recovery team are very disappointed about the loss, it is a highly unusual occurrence, and all the more disappointing as the bird is a young female," Mr Jansen said.

"This is the first bird lost in transfer since birds were originally removed from threats on Stewart Island and Fiordland beginning over 30 years ago."

"The transfers are necessary because there are now too many kakapo for any one pest-free island and swapping birds between islands to maximise breeding and genetic diversity is a crucial part of kakapo recovery."

Mr Jansen said he expected it would take at least a further six to seven years to evaluate whether these young kakapo had keyed into beech seeding on Fiordland islands like Te Kakahu.

"Our hope is that they will be 'aphrodisiac isle' for the young kakapo there."

* For further information contact Paul Jansen, Kakapo Recovery Programme team leader, ph: 04 4713236 work, or 025-410-026, or 04 2341459 home * Dr Jansen will be inspecting the dead kakapo, post-autopsy at 1pm, Saturday 10 July. Kakapo Facts:

* Kakapo are ground-dwelling parrots - they can't fly but they are excellent climbers
* They are the world's biggest parrots, weighing up to 4 kg
* They are found only in New Zealand, and there are now only 85 left in the world


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