Last Updated on February 24, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Kakapo was once the most common type of bird in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the population of kakapo faces a tremendous decline due to multiple factors. Today, the Department of Conservation is doing continuous efforts to save this endangered species from extinction.
The colonization of humans in the Islands of New Zealand was the prime factor of kakapo’s decline. Kakapo is a ground dweller nocturnal bird that doesn’t possess the flying ability. The early hunting and habitat destruction led to the disappearance of this bird from the mainland.
The conservation strategies for kakapo are a highly appreciated step. The New Zealand government implements defined Wildlife Acts leading to the kakapo species protection. These Acts are in effect since the first conservation efforts back in the 1890s.
Translocation Phase of Kakapo
After the first-ever record of kakapo population decline, the recovery programs are in continuous effect. At first, New Zealand Wildlife Service searched for the remaining kakapos on the mainland for translocation.
In 1995, the Department of Conservation took over the recovery program through Wildlife Services. They make regular monitoring and capturing expeditions to the Fiordland and surrounding regions.
In doing so, proper conservation requires a predator-free land for kakapo to live and reproduce. Four Islands of New Zealand, Maud, Little Barrier, Codfish & Mana were chosen for the translocation of kakapos.
The Department of Conservation did 5 total translocation phases and relocate around 65 kakapos. Unfortunately, the designated islands got enough predators and an unsuitable environment for kakapo to flourish.
The biggest problem occurred in the case of Little Barrier island with unsuitable landscapes for kakapos. Therefore, the department decided to relocate the kakapo again to Chalky Island and Anchor Island.
While translocation, wildlife services of New Zealand worked their way towards the elimination of predators. Codfish island’s entire kakapo population was relocated to Pearl Island for the removal of rats and predator populations.
In 2005, the department decided to shift all the kakapo population to a more suitable place at Anchor Island. The translocation phase was an important step in conservation but was not enough for kakapos conservation.
Intensive Breeding Management of Kakapos
After the successful translocation of kakapos to predator-free environments, breeding was the key part of the population increase. Female kakapos were specifically kept in focus and certain measures of feeding and care were implemented.
One of the prime factors was the long breeding gaps as kakapos are only able to breed one time in 3 to 4 years. The Department of Conservation built breeding stations in the kakapo habitat where supplemental feeding is provided.
This is to ensure that the female kakapos must be healthy enough to reproduce in the breeding season. The avian geneticists also contribute to improving the breeding conditions and increasing the chances of female kakapos.
Record Keeping & Tracking of Kakapo
After 1995, the conservation departments also raised the kakapo nesting care management. This is done by micro-chipping and tracking each alive kakapo bird. Therefore, tracking and continuous monitoring ensure the recording of all the movements of kakapos in their nests.
Kakapo recovery teams regularly inspect the nests of kakapos and remove eggs from the nests. The eggs are then artificially incubated under favorable conditions to increase the survival of chicks.
The incubation under observation allows the Department of Conservation to increase chick production. This greatly reduces the number of deaths in young chicks by predator involvement on the captive islands.
Disease Prevention Strategies in Kakapos
The disease of Aspergillosis hits the kakapos population in late 2019 with a single fungal strain. This led to mass morbidity and high mortality rates in young and adult kakapos. Wildlife hospitals in New Zealand actively took part in treating around 20% of the kakapo population.
The ultimate goal of monitoring by Kakapo recovery teams results in early detection of aspergillosis. The suspected kakapos were immediately transferred to various wildlife hospitals and kept under intensive care from April to June 2019.
The Fruitful Results of Kakapo Conservation
From only 51 remaining kakapos in 1995, the Department of Conservation and recovery programs put in consistent efforts. The breeding season of 2002 resulted in the successful incubation and hatching of 24 new kakapo chicks.
The first breeding on Anchor Island in 2016 yielded 32 healthy chicks. Then from 2018 to 2019, various attempts were made to increase the production of kakapos through breeding methods. Artificial insemination in 2022 was a success and now the kakapo population is around 252.
There are many ongoing breeding plans and recovery programs to save kakapo from extinction. All the conservation efforts are highly admirable and help in saving the magnificent kakapo in New Zealand.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.