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Sixth Kakapo Death In A Year Drops Population to 125

Members of the Kakapo Recovery Program in New Zealand discovered that Barnard, a kakapo that had fathered eight chicks over the years, had died.

By The BirdChannel News Division
Posted: August 15, 2012, 5:15 p.m. PST

Courtesy the Kakapo Recovery Program
The death of Barnard the kakapo drops the kakapo population to 125 parrots.

Courtesy the Kakapo Recovery Program
Barnard, pictured being checked by a member of the Kakapo Recovery Program, fathered eight chicks and helped boost the population.

The Kakapo Recovery Program, a conservation group that helps monitor and manage the few kakapos left in the wild, was dealt a disappointing blow following the discovery of a sixth dead bird in the past year.

The kakapo, named Barnard, was found dead by rangers on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island in New Zealand when they went looking for him to perform his annual transmitter change.

Kakapo Recovery Program manager Deidre Vercoe Scott said the team was gutted by Barnard’s death, especially since it appeared to have gone unnoticed for up to three months.

“While it’s true we only sight these birds once a year for health checks and a transmitter change, Kakapo Recovery prides itself on having technology that allows us to monitor our precious population, with minimal interference,” Scott said. “But that technology is constantly changing to increase the information that we can collect. We may be experiencing some problems with how we interpret these complex transmitter signals accurately, so we will be looking into this closely. While it won’t prevent a kakapo death, identifying a mortality signal as soon as possible means we get better information from the autopsy examination.”

Barnard was an unknown-aged bird, first discovered on Stewart Island in 1982. He fathered eight chicks, including five of the 11 hatched during the last breeding season in 2011. His death reduces the kakapo population to125 parrots.

Scott said kakapo deaths were a reminder that, although the Kakapo Recovery Program had achieved much during the past 22 years – increasing the total population from 49 to 131 last year – the kakapo is still a critically endangered parrot species and vulnerable to extinction. And, with an ageing population, an increase in mortality was inevitable.

“We can expect to see the population numbers continue to go up and down for several years to come because quite a few of the birds are possibly very old,” Scott said. “The good news is more than half the kakapo population consists of young, breeding-age birds and indications are that there will be a breeding season this summer – planning for that is well underway.”

For more information about the kakapo program, visit its website.

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Sixth Kakapo Death In A Year Drops Population to 125

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Reader Comments
It's both heartbreaking and joyous!Really I'm beyond words right now.
Traci, Glendale, OR
Posted: 11/19/2012 12:36:22 PM
Thanks for the informataion. Please update on this subject when you can.
janet, henderson, NV
Posted: 9/1/2012 12:53:48 PM
That's so sad. Hopefully no more deaths for a long time.
Susan, Charleston, SC
Posted: 8/19/2012 2:20:06 AM
nice pic, i hope those breeding aged birds can make a significant addition this coming yr
stephanie, n smithfield, RI
Posted: 8/18/2012 9:22:53 AM
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