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Critically Endangered Kakapo, World's Fattest Parrot, Records Most Successful Breeding Season Ever

Critically Endangered Kakapo, World's Fattest Parrot, Records Most Successful Breeding Season Ever

Considering the fact that the population is very less, every kakapo has its own name. Some of them include Ruth, Hoki, Suzanne, and Zephyr.

Once considered to be one of New Zealand's most common birds, Kakapo, the flightless nocturnal parrots have been in the brink of being critically endangered. But finally, it looks like the fortune of the 147 birds that are currently alive has finally turned, reports BBC

Also known to be the world's fattest species of parrot, the Kakapo have had their most successful breeding season on record, according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC).

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The kakapo is considered to be one of the most favourite birds of New Zealanders as they are known for its charismatic nature and owl-like face. The DOC states that more than 70 chicks have been born, however not all are expected to make it to adulthood. But even then, the current population is expected to see a massive increase.

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The birds breed only once in every 2 to 4 years when the native rimu trees produce fruit and the period is known as 'mast year'. The 2019 breeding season is almost double the numbers from the 2016 season. This year’s season is expected to be a record length.

Around 100 years ago, the birds were found in many parts of the country, however, their numbers saw a significant decrease due to several factors like hunting, deforestation, and predators like cats and stoats that were introduced by European settlers in the 19th century.

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But thanks to government-funded programmes, the birds have been witnessing a significant increase in their numbers. “It’s absolutely huge, it’s massive,” Dr. Andrew Digby, a science advisor to the Department of Conservation’s kākāpō recovery programme told The Guardian

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“In the last two seasons there have been huge quantities of fruit not seen for 50 years, so that’s why all of the female kākāpō know it is time to breed, and actually started much earlier than usual, meaning some have now been able to nest twice.” The female Kakapos are known to weigh around 1.4 kgs (3.1 pounds) and the males weigh around 2.2 kgs (4.8 pounds).

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Considering the fact that the population is very less, every kakapo has its own name. Some of them include Ruth, Hoki, Suzanne, and Zephyr. “I can be anywhere in the world and log in and find out which kākāpo mated last night, who they mated with, how long they mated for, the quality of the mating – its real big brother stuff,” he said. “We have to be intensive at the moment.” 

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Digby added that until the population reaches 500, the Kakapos will be closely monitored to ensure their population doesn't see yet another significant decline.

“When you’ve only got a population of 147 anything could wipe them out and they could become extinct quite quickly. We want to get 150 breeding females, and ideally some unmanaged population, before we can start to relax a little bit.”

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At one point in time, almost 5 decades ago, there were only 18 kakapos known to exist on the entire planet. But under the government scheme, all newborn kakapo chicks have been raised in a secure facility and following this, they are released into the wild, tagged with a transmitter.

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“They’re a very unusual bird, they’re the world’s only flightless parrot, and they have been following their own evolutionary path for 30 million years. There is so much to learn from them – they are strange and unique,” said Digby. The chicks will be raised on two predator-free islands in New Zealand. The place is heavily protected and is completely pest-free. The Kakapo recovery team also intends to move them to mainland New Zealand soon after this. 

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