Why a bumper kākāpō breeding season could be a problem

  • 19/09/2018

New Zealand is home to 80,000 different native animals and plants, but 4000 of those species are endangered or at risk of extinction. If we lose them, so does the planet.

One of those endangered species is the kākāpō, the world's biggest parrot.

It's so sociable that people once kept them as pets, back when New Zealand used to be overflowing with the birds. But now there are just 148 left.

The Department of Conservation's (DoC's) threatened species ambassador, Nicola Toki, says there is some good news: kākāpō don't breed often, but they're expected to produce up to 150 eggs this year. Accounting for the species' high infertility rate, DoC are expecting between 40 and 70 chicks to be born.

The biggest ever kākāpō breeding season produced 32 chicks, so Ms Toki told The Project it's a "really exciting time".

"In 1995 we were down to just 51 kākāpō on the planet, so this is our opportunity to turn it all around."

There is a catch: in what Ms Toki describes as a "happy problem", so many chicks are expected that eventually DoC will run out of room for them all on the three offshore predator-free islands dedicated to housing them.

"We're really going to have to crunch down now on where we're going to put them all," she explained.

She says kākāpō are so adorable that she still wants to save them, even after being bitten by them twice in recent times.

"They're super cool, they're mega charismatic. We don't have pandas and lions and tigers and bears in New Zealand, but we do have kākāpō, and you can't not love a kākāpō."

Because every single one of the remaining birds is so precious, when kākāpō lay eggs DoC rangers will camp out every night beside the nests to keep an eye on them - sometimes even keeping them warm with a miniature electric blanket.