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Kakapo Deaths Drop Population To 128

The celebration of six new kakapo chicks was dampened by the death of kakapos Ben and Taonga.

Jessica Pineda

Learn a little about the kakapo in this BBC program.

Sad news for kakapo fans: Two more kakapos died in the past several weeks, dropping the world population down to 128. After a good start to the year with the addition of six new kakapo chicks, the loss of two birds, including a young female, is a stark reminder how few kakapos there are.

On May 5, the Kakapo Recovery posted on their Facebook page, "The kakapo population is less two. Sadly, as we enjoyed the thrill of helping six chicks into the world, we lost Ben (age unknown) and Taonga aged 3. The team is particularly saddened by Taonga's death, as she was a female. Hopefully, we'll know the cause soon.”

Kakapo Taonga
Taonga, a 3-year-old female kakapo, died in April 2014, according to the Kakapo Recovery Facebook page.
Ben was one of the birds found on Stewart Island, New Zealand in the 1977. At the time, researchers believed the entire population consisted of males, until they discovered a group of males and females living on the island. Ben’s age was unknown, but the Kakapo Recovery believed he died from kidney failure.

Taonga’s cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. Before she died, she was emaciated and in bad shape. Researchers hoped to save her by providing supplementary feeding, but the efforts failed, according to the Southland Times.

Kakapo are slow breeders. Females rely on rumi fruit to feed their chicks, and when it is in low supply, they won’t breed. This can sometimes mean that kakapos go years without breeding.  They lay one to four eggs, the females feed the chicks for 10 weeks, but may feed them up to six weeks until the chicks are fully able to do so on their own.

Heather One the Kakapo
From the Kakapo Recovery Facebook Page
Heather One, a young kakapo, wasn't doing well at her nest. She was saved by the Kakapo Recovery programme and Auckland Zoo.
Though the loss of two kakapos is sad, the Kakapo Recovery has had a good year. In April, they set up the first kakapo nest cam live stream. The camera is at a nest on the Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, and steam. According to New Zealand Department of Conservation website, "very few people in the world had ever had the chance to witness kakapo nesting, given kakapo didn’t breed every year and it occurred in such a remote place, with limited access to technology.” The Kakapo Recovery program, hosts of the live stream, are happy they can "share part of that special kakapo experience with the rest of New Zealand,” and the world.

In early May, the Kakapo Recovery program and Auckland Zoo teamed up to save a kakapo chick named "Heather One.” She wasn’t doing well at the nest, so researchers took the chick in, and started to take care of her. According to a statement by Auckland Zoo senior veterinarian James Chatterton, "It’s incredible to see how she’s pulled through in the five weeks she’s been here. It was touch and go for a while, but kakapo are incredibly hardy birds.We’ve had the combined skills of our vet team, keepers with kakapo experience, the expertise of DOC’s Hauturu kakapo ranger Leigh Joyce, and invaluable support from the South Island-based Kakapo Recovery team providing Heather One with around-the-clock care. It’s really been an amazing team effort to get her health back on track."

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Posted: May 9, 2014, 4:15 p.m. PDT

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Kakapo Deaths Drop Population To 128

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Reader Comments
I think this article sadins my heart. Just to think that there are so few of these birds left in the wild. Just keep up the good work that your doing now. And save as many as you can.
Christl, Calgary
Posted: 5/15/2014 1:37:48 PM
I hope they can do more for this beautiful species and bring them off the critically endangered list.
Donna, Phoenix, AZ
Posted: 5/13/2014 1:36:11 PM
How sad. Kakapo's are such neat birds.
n, n, TN
Posted: 5/11/2014 4:38:28 AM
how very sad. so many things science has to learn and time is running out.
Carol, Silver Spring, MD
Posted: 5/10/2014 7:48:24 PM
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