Attenborough hails kakapo effort

Department of Conservation kakapo recovery programme operations manager Deidre Vercoe and Andrew...
Department of Conservation kakapo recovery programme operations manager Deidre Vercoe and Andrew Digby, with Sir David Attenborough at his London home. Photo: Andrew Digby.

Two members of Department of Conservation kakapo recovery programme have been hosted by  natural historian and conservationist Sir David Attenborough at his London home.

Operations manager Deidre Vercoe and Andrew Digby, who is a scientist with the programme, spent 90 minutes with Sir David two weeks ago, updating him on efforts to save the endangered native parrots and this year’s bumper crop of chicks.

Ms Vercoe said Sir David, who is 90, "blew her away".

"It was great to meet him. He was very genuine, very interested in what we were doing."

The visit came after Ms Vercoe wrote to tell him a kakapo chick was to be named after him.

"I said we were going to be on holiday in the United Kingdom and he wrote back and invited us to meet him."

They gave him a book on kakapo and he wrote a note to staff and volunteers thanking them for their work and saying "what a joy, delight and wonder kakapo brought to the whole world".

The note had been framed and hung on a wall, Ms Vercoe said.

During their holiday, she and Dr Digby also gave a public talk at Cambridge University focusing on new technologies used in the kakapo programme, such as smart feeding stations which allow nominated birds to feed and lock others out.

Only 51 kakapo remained, most on Stewart Island, when the recovery programme was established in 1995.

This year’s crop of 33 chicks has boosted numbers to 156.

Ms Vercoe said kakapo had been on the Anchor Island sanctuary in Dusky Sound, Fiordland, for 10 years and this was the first season chicks had hatched there.

Of the 22 adult females on the island, 21 had bred.

What was even more exciting was four of this year’s chicks had "Fiordland genes", inherited from their grandfather, a bird called Richard Henry, she said.

Discovered living in a remote valley in Fiordland in 1975, he was believed to be the last "mainland" kakapo when he died in 2010, aged about 80. 

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