Just under 100 of New Zealand’s most endangered parrot, the kakapo remain but hopefully that number will increase thanks to the 26 hand-reared chicks that are returning to New Zealand. The baby chicks will spend six more weeks on a predator free island, Codfish Island living in an outdoor pen before returning to their natural habitat.
Kakapo lovers are depending on the 26 hand reared baby chicks born just 90 days ago to increase the dwindling kakapo number to 126 birds. Weighing in at nearly 5 pounds the kakapo is heaviest parrot in the world and it can’t fly at all. It’s also the only nocturnal parrot and as a result often called the owl parrot. Kakapo have the ability to completely freeze up to fend off its ancient predator, the now extinct giant eagle. Breeding is difficult with these parrots that only mate every 3 to 4 years.
According the New Zealand Department of Conservation, in the 1840’s European settlers not only hunted the bird, they cleared and set fire to bush for farming, destroying its habitat. Because of Polynesian and European colonization and the introduction of predators such as cats, rats, and stoats, most of the kakapo were wiped out. Conservation efforts began in the 1890s, but they were not very successful until the implementation of the Kakapo Recovery Plan in the 1980s.