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The kakapo (Strigops habroptila) is a peculiar species of flightless parrot fighting its way back from the brink of extinction with help from conservationists.
A kakapo recovery program takes place on Codish Island (Whenua Hua), off Southland in New Zealand.
The unique geography of islands has been linked to the evolution of many endemic New Zealand birds. With no ground-living mammalian predators to threaten them, numerous flightless species developed.
Kakapo are nocturnal creatures that hide under logs and grassy tussocks during the day, emerging after dark to forage and engage in unique mating rituals. Some may live up to 90 years of age.
The Kakapo Recovery Team on Codfish Island inspects kakapo for the February 2013 breeding season. It is forecast to be a poor year, as the fruit crop on the rimu tree is low.
These are fronds of the rimu tree. Kakapo eat a range of plants, but rimu fruit is their super food, packed with the nutrients brooding females require as they raise their young alone.
Blades, a male kakapo, is held by researcher Daryl Eason ahead of his health check.
Kakapo were abundant in New Zealand before human settlement. Things changed rapidly when Polynesian colonists arrived 700–900 years ago, bringing hunting dogs and inadvertently introducing Polynesian rats.
With the arrival of Europeans in 1769 came further predators – two varieties of rat, cats, rabbits, stoats and weasels – which marked the end for many native species.
Two kakapo staff work on Codish Island . The island has no roads and is reached by light plane or helicopter. It is a specially-protected nature reserve, and no unauthorised landing is permitted. Since the 1980s all predators have been progressively removed, culminating in a huge rat eradication program in 1998. The island is now an ideal long-term home for kakapo.
Codish Island has seen some phenomenal breeding events. In 2002, 24 chicks were added to the kakapo population in a matter of months and, in 2009, 33 chicks hatched.
Myriad mosses and lichens embellish the forest floor on Codfish Island.
Hoki is a female kakapo hatched on Codish Island in 1992. At the age of five weeks, food supplies failed and Hoki would have starved to death. She was then taken from her nest and hand-raised at Auckland Zoo.
Hoki is the first kakapo to be partially raised in captivity. She provided humans with a special opportunity to get to know the habits and behaviour of her species.
Nearby Stewart Island as seen from the air.
Home Topics Wildlife Gallery: The weird parrot Kakapo
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