Numbers of endangered kakī/black stilt hit record high

The total adult population living in the wild is now at 169.
The total adult population living in the wild is now at 169. Photo credit: Liz Brown / Department of Conservation

There is good news for one of the country's most endangered birds - after almost four decades of conservation work, numbers of the kakī/black stilt have hit a new high.

The total adult population living in the wild is now at 169, up 40 from a year ago, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said on Saturday.

The critically endangered birds are mostly found in the Mackenzie Basin and are considered a taonga species for the Ngāi Tahu iwi.

They are one of the world's rarest wading birds.

"Today’s announcement is a tribute to nearly four decades of protection, research, and intensive management," said Sage. 

"Kakī have had a remarkable turnaround since they were on the brink of extinction in 1981, when the adult population declined to a low of just 23 birds."

Numbers of endangered kakī/black stilt hit record high
Photo credit: Liz Brown / Department of Conservation

The rise in numbers follows extensive predator trapping in the area and a successful 2017/2018 breeding season when the Department of Conservation (DoC) released a record 184 juvenile kakī that were raised in captivity.

Due to predators, however, only 67 of those young birds survived until adulthood.

A further 127 birds are currently being cared for by DoC, along with the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, as part of a captive breeding programme.

More young birds will be released into the Godley riverbed in August. 

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