The time I discovered a new population of kākāpō

The author as a youngster on Little Barrier Island, pictured with a kaka (Supplied)
The author as a youngster on Little Barrier Island, pictured with a kaka (Supplied)

As a young girl, Newshub reporter Anna Bracewell-Worrall found an unknown population of kākāpō. Here's her story.

When I was a kid, I got to spend some time on Little Barrier Island on the edge of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.

We'd get there by helicopter or hop on a commercial fishing vessel, switching to the ranger's tinny near the shore.

It's hard to explain what it's like on Little Barrier, because it's unlike anything. I'd never seen so much bird, insect and sealife before - and haven't again since.

I had the job of feeding the baby tuatara and searching for the giant weta while my dad built a tuataratarium for the adult tuatara.

I spent six weeks straight on the island, doing school by fax machine, reading books about ponies and running through the bush.

One day while exploring with the ranger's daughter, Natasha, I found a feather that made me stop.

It was very green, with a pattern I'd never seen before.

kakapo bird new zealand conservation
The distinctive plumage of the kākāpō (Getty)

When I showed it to the ranger and her partner, they just stood there looking at it.

"We might hold onto that one," they said.

I'd been sellotaping feathers and lizard skins into my school book, and I was pretty gutted I didn't get to stick that one in too.

We got back home to Auckland, where I had to go to actual school with actual people again, and I'd almost forgotten all about that feather when a letter arrived!

I opened it and there was a green feather with those patterns on it. The letter said the feather had been looked at by the Department of Conservation, and it belonged to a kākāpō.

kakapo bird conservation little barrier island new zealand
A female and two chicks were later found on the island (File)

It said they hadn't known there were any kākāpō on the island at all. They searched the island and found a mother with two chicks.

I have no idea where those kākāpō ended up or how they found them. I'd like to know - maybe the babies have had babies; maybe one was that kākāpō that hassled Stephen Fry!

It was an enchanting little chapter in my life. That island was a world unto itself - a little peek into what a pest-free, farm-free, people-free New Zealand could be.

Anna Bracewell-Worrall and Pidge the keruru
Anna and her sister Helen with Pidge the kereru (supplied)

And I'll tell you what, it's bloody magical.