Kākāpō numbers increase to 252 in 2022 breeding season

The number of Kākāpō jumped from 197 to 252 in the 2022 breeding season, and there are now more endangered parrots than there have been in nearly 50 years, the report said today. today the Minister of Conservation, Poto Williams.

The flightless nocturnal parrot is a taonga from Ngāi Tahu and a species unique to New Zealand. They only reproduce every two to four years when the rimu trees produce enough fruit.

During breeding seasons, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Ngāi Tahu aim to have as many kākāpō chicks reared in nests as possible. They only get involved with hand rearing when the chicks are at risk. This season 49 were raised in the nest and six were raised entirely by hand.

“There is a holistic approach to saving the kākāpō,” says Poto Williams. “This is the second biggest breeding season, bringing the highest number of birds since the 1970s, but we can’t take our eyes off the ball.”

“The season’s 55 kākāpō chicks were not added to the official population until they were 150 days old. The chicks usually find themselves in high-risk situations and sometimes need to be rescued from awkward episodes, such as staying stuck in the mud or their legs stuck in the trees.”

This season, the team has had unprecedented success in its artificial insemination project. Kākāpō have very low fertility (only 77 of 141 eggs that year were fertile), and some kākāpō males produce little or no offspring, worsening the species’ already limited genetic diversity.

“Between 2009 and 2019, with the help of international experts, five chicks were produced by artificial insemination. Due to the covid border closures, the team tackled the project alone in 2022 and produced a record nine chicks, eight of which are still alive, ensuring valuable genetics are maintained in the population.

“The 2022 season also saw three of the chicks hatch at a new breeding site – Te Kākahu-o-tamatea/Chalky Island. These chicks were monitored using a new hands-off method. ‘ helps the team develop new tools and strategies for more remote monitoring, as they aim to manage more kākāpō with less intensive methods, at more sites.”

“The DOC’s Kākāpō Recovery Team includes technical specialists, volunteers and field guards, who are working hard to ensure that as many fledgling youngsters as possible get through this difficult phase, with the support of the teams from Dunedin Wildlife Hospital and Auckland Zoo, if any chicks are found in distress.”

Tāne Davis has been the Te Runanga O Ngāi Tahu representative for the Kākāpō Recovery Program since 2005, helping to guide policy decisions regarding the protection, management and conservation of kākāpō. He says that the Ngāi Tahu takiwā is where the last surviving kākāpō were found.

“The Ngāi Tahu’s ties to the kākāpō mauri are growing stronger as the population grows. Our vision for the kākāpō is to increase their numbers and ensure that they can live freely in a natural environment. Ngāi Tahu acknowledges and argues that Rakiura becomes pest-free, then the kākāpō can be returned to their original kāinga.The success of the 2022 kākāpō breeding season can be credited to the close working partnerships within the Kākāpō Recovery Team and Ngai Tahu.

Recognizing the global interest in the kākāpō, DOC worked with Urban Wildlife Trust and ICONA to broadcast live camera footage of a kākāpō nest. They hope to get it working in time for the next breeding season. This will allow kākāpō enthusiasts around the world to watch the chicks hatch and track their progress until they leave the nest.

(With contributions from the New Zealand government press release)