Kākāpō Baby Boom!
As you know, Quadrant2Design are the only British sponsors of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme. Alan spent many years living in New Zealand so these funny looking parrots will always have a spot in his heart.
Not long ago, there was only 150 Kākāpō’s left in the world. A huge recovery programme (and a couple of private islands) later, we’re pleased to announce that a record 71 chicks survived through to juvenile age. Currently, the Kākāpō population is at a record 213 birds.
What you need to know about the Kākāpō
The Kākāpō is an endangered parrot species native to New Zealand. They have a distinctive, owl-like face, which we all find adorable. They’re excellent climbers, which is lucky because they can’t fly. But they’re also extremely friendly; both the Māori and early European settlers kept Kākāpō’s as pets.
Unfortunately, Kākāpō’s are also lazy and clumsy. Two traits that have contributed to their endangered status. They aren’t the ‘fight or flight’ type; when threatened they just freeze. When the Māori and European settlers arrived, they cleared large areas of the Kākāpō’s habitat and introduces new predators to the area.
The clumsy parrots were left defenceless. In the 1980s, the Kākāpō Recovery Plan was implemented as a last resort to save the species.
The Kākāpō Recovery Plan
Several attempts to save the species were made. In 1894, pioneer conservationist Richard Henry tried to relocate hundreds of Kākāpō’s to a predator-free island. Unfortunately, stoats arrived within six years and destroyed the remaining population.
Over sixty expeditions took place to find surviving Kākāpō’s on the island. Six males were found, five of which died within a few months of captivity. Extinction seemed inevitable.
Then, just as conservationists were beginning to give up in the late seventies, a large population of male Kākāpō’s were heard “booming”. The noise, distinctive to the Kākāpō’s, is a mating call. Hearing the “booming” indicated a Kākāpō population was alive and well, but it also suggested females were living alongside the males. The New Zealand Wildlife Service confirmed this in 1980.
200 Kākāpō’s were found, including both male and female parrots. The surviving population were evacuated to Codfish Island, Maud Island and Little Barrier Island. These islands were to become the bird’s new habitat. The only chance they had of survival.
It wasn’t plain sailing from there. Rats inhabited the islands and were found to be a major predator of newly hatched Kākāpō’s. Many chicks didn’t survive passed adulthood. Although 12 chicks had been born by 1995, only 3 had survived.
This wasn’t the result that this species needed. The Kākāpō Recovery Programme received additional funding in 1996. They increased the workforce, adding a specialist scientific and technical advisory committee.
Finally, the Kākāpō Recovery Programme started seeing the results that they needed. All predators were removed from the island habitats. The staff began giving the parrots specially formulated food to keep them healthy enough to breed and raise chicks. They also started hand-rearing chicks where mothers had too many for them to care for.
Everything was going well for the Kākāpō Recovery Programme. As the species grew in population, the New Zealand Wildlife Service thought they were out of the mud. Unfortunately, a spout of aspergillosis swept across the islands infecting many birds.
Aspergillosis can be fatal for birds and is caused by a type of fungus. Every Kākāpō had to be caught and screened to see if they were affected. Infected birds were flown to the mainland for veterinary treatment. In total, nine birds died from the outbreak but in early February 2020, the final two Kākāpō’s receiving treatment returned to their islands.
Kākāpō Population Today
Despite everything that has been thrown their way, the Kākāpō Recovery Programme has been an overwhelming success. Despite being famously lazy, the parrots continue to thrive in their new habitat. During the breeding season, “booming” can be heard from the mainland.
The Kākāpō population once dropped below fifty birds. Now, it stands at over two hundred. They have just recorded their most successful year yet, introducing seventy-one chicks into the population.
We are proud to support such a noble cause. These birds need to be protected. They are a huge part of New Zealand’s history and culture. In 2017 we donated a brand new custom modular exhibition stand to the Kākāpō Recovery Programme. They have used it at hundreds of events to raise brand awareness and generate funding. We loved working on this project! All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope that one day we make it over to New Zealand so we can meet these funny looking parrots ourselves.