New Zealand? Kakapo Population Drops To 127

Two kakapo deaths in the month of January drop the world kakapo population to 127 individual birds.

Two adult kakapo parrots have been found dead, according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. One was found by kakapo rangers in early January 2012, after his transmitter went into mortality mode. The other was discovered caught up by her transmitter harness in late January.

Kakapos are large, flightless parrots found in New Zealand. The nocturnal birds are listed internationally as a critically endangered species.

With these deaths, the kakapo parrot population has fallen to 127, down from a high of 131 following last year’s breeding season, according to the Department of Conservation. There will be no breeding season this year, the department further noted. Kakapos breed every three to four years.

This is sad news for the Kakapo Recovery program, said Deidre Vercoe Scott, program manager.

When the kakapo known as Waynebo was found by rangers, the mortality function on his transmitter revealed he had been dead for 24 hours. His exact age is not known.

“An autopsy has been carried out at Auckland Zoo and at this stage, the only indication of the cause of death is that he had a wound on his chest,” Vercoe Scott said. “He had been completely healthy when routinely captured several weeks prior to his death.”

Test results had not been released at press time.

Waynebo was first discovered on Stewart Island in January 1989 and transferred to Whenua Hou/Codfish Island where he fathered several kakapo chicks.

In the second case, a female named Sandra had been found dead on Anchor Island caught up by her transmitter harness. Transmitters are fitted on every kakapo and crucial for locating the birds, according to Vercoe Scott.

“Without transmitters, our mission to support and grow the kakapo population would be virtually impossible,” she said.

This was the first time a kakapo had died in this manner, she added.

“The harnesses are fitted in a way that the bird will wriggle out of them if they get hooked on something,” Vercoe Scott said. “We’ve been using them for the past 31 years without a death like this occurring.”

Still, it’s gutting for the team to lose a bird this way, she said.

Sandra had been discovered on Stewart Island in 1992. She didn’t have a good breeding history, raising just one chick in 1999, according to the Department of Conservation.

Kakapo At A Glance
1) The kakapo is listed internationally as a critically endangered species. Only 127 birds remain.

2) The kakapo is the heaviest parrot in the world. Males can weigh more than 2 kilograms (about 4 pounds and 7 ounces).

3) Kakapo breeding takes place every three to four years.

4) Kakapos can live for decades.

5) The kakapo cannot fly but it is very good at climbing trees.

6) Kakapos are herbivores and eat variety of foods such as roots, leaves and fruit.

7)  Kakapos are nocturnal.

Source: New Zealand’s Department of Conservation

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