Breaking news........Cambridge, UK, 19th March 2002 BirdLife International today welcomed news of a major boost to the survival prospects of the Critically Endangered Kakapo after the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) announced a record 22 chicks have successfully hatched on Whenua Hou Island, increasing the global population from 62 to 84 birds [1,2,3].
Cambridge, UK, 1st March 2002 - BirdLife International today welcomed news that one of the world's rarest birds, the Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), looks set for an unprecedented baby boom in New Zealand after it emerged yesterday that seven Kakapo chicks have hatched on Whenua Hou, a small island off the South Island of New Zealand. This brings the world population of this critically endangered species of flightless night parrot to 69 individual birds.
"This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in threatened bird conservation in years", said BirdLife International's Director & Chief Executive, Dr Michael Rands. "The successful hatching of these latest seven chicks is welcome news and signals that 2002 could become the best Kakapo seasons ever".
The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) announced on 18th February that a record 52 Kakapo eggs were being incubated by 18 females on Whenua Hou, a small island off Stewart Island. Two days later the first chick hatched successfully - the first to do so since 1999.
The DoC also report that over half the eggs are fertile and think that these chicks stand the best chance ever of making it to breeding age due to intensive efforts to conserve this species over the past decade through the Kakapo Recovery Programme.
The Programme has developed innovative and effective conservation techniques over the past ten years. The key threat to this slow breeding species was introduced mammalian predators such as rats and cats. Introduced Australian Brush-tailed Possums were eradicated on Whenua Hou in 1984 and rats in 1999, making the island one of the safest natural environments for Kakapo to thrive in.
The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the BirdLife International Affiliate in New Zealand, is one of four organisations that are part of the Kakapo Recovery Programme which has worked for ten years to save the species from extinction.
The Department of Conservation has been preparing for this season since April 2001 when eleven Kakapo were transferred to Whenua Hou from another island because of the abundant fruiting of Rimu trees on Whenua Hou, which makes a good breeding season more likely. The Rimu is an important food source for young Kakapo, and has only fruited abundantly three times in the past ten years.
Each Kakapo is fitted with a radio transmitter and the nests monitored by infrared camera through the breeding season. Warming pads will also be placed over eggs and nestlings while females forage to improve survival chances. Any neglected or ill chicks will be removed from the nest and hand-reared by DoC staff.
For further information contact: Michael Szabo on +44(0)1223277279 or +44(0)7779 018 332 (m).
Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society website: www.forest-bird.org.nz