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Conservation Minister Maggie Barry's grin said it all when she was allowed the rare privilege of holding a large kakapo chick during a visit to the Department of Conservation's chick-raising facility in central Invercargill yesterday.
"Aren't they amazing? It's like holding a piece of history,'' she said.
Earlier in the visit, much to her delight, two smaller kakapo gnawed on her fingers, making piglet-like grunts as they searched for food.
Ms Barry said kakapo had fascinated her since Sirroco visited Parliament in 2014 and "captivated her heart''.
Yesterday she spent about 45 minutes at the facility before accompanying two chicks back to Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) in Foveaux Strait.
She and her partner, Grant Kerr, also signed up for the kakapo adoption programme, sponsoring Kuia, the most precious female kakapo in the 123-strong adult population.
She is the only daughter of Richard Henry, a kakapo discovered in Fiordland in 1975 and the last bird to carry Fiordland population genes.
This year has been a bumper season for the slow-breeding endangered native parrots, with 46 eggs hatching and 36 chicks surviving.
Working in shifts around the clock, Doc staff have raised 11 in Invercargill because they were not thriving with their mothers.
At the beginning of last month, Doc put some of the older chicks at the facility on display.
Doc takahe and kakapo advocacy ranger Julie Futter said since then more than 4000 school groups and members of the public had visited.
Because of the birds' popularity, public viewing had been extended to include June 11 and 12 and June 18 and 19, Ms Futter said.
Public viewing will end on June 19.