Kakapo chicks being reared at wildlife hospital


Five of one of New Zealand's rarest bird species are being raised in Dunedin to relieve pressure during their largest breeding season since recovery efforts began.

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker holds a critically endangered kakapo chick at the...
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker holds a critically endangered kakapo chick at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital yesterday.
The Department of Conservation transported the kakapo chicks from Codfish Island, near Stewart Island, last Wednesday, to be reared at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital.

It is the first time the facility has housed the critically-endangered flightless species.

This year kakapo on remote predator-free islands started breeding much earlier than usual.

The department used this opportunity to take the first round of hatched chicks away from mothers and encourage them to re-mate.

The plan is proving successful and the department is expecting the largest breeding season.

Last year there were 147 kakapo in the world. Between 30 and 50 chicks are expected this season alone.

Yesterday the Otago Daily Times was allowed rare access to the young birds during a visit to the hospital by Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker.

It was filmed by Dunedin-based wildlife documentary company NHNZ, which has been following staff around since early January for a five-part documentary series about the facility called Wildlife Rescue.

 Two kakapo chicks snooze at the hospital. PHOTOS: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Two kakapo chicks snooze at the hospital. PHOTOS: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Hospital wildlife vet and founder Lisa Argilla said the recovery programme probably sent the birds there because of her previous work with kakapo.

"I've worked with the recovery programme since 2009. I love kakapo. They're sort of up there with my favourite New Zealand natives.''

The five chicks hatched on Anchor Island, in Fiordland, and were taken to Codfish Island, which houses more than half of the birds.

The chicks are in an incubator and need to be fed every few hours, which means someone needs to be at the hospital at all times.

It is not known how long they will be there, but eventually the birds will be introduced into a predator-free area in the wild.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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