kakapo

Recovering New Zealand’s Ancient Bird

Kākāpō are among the world’s most ancient bird species, and have inhabited New Zealand for millions of years. After humans arrived and introduced predators to the island, the once-abundant Kākāpō population rapidly declined. By the 1970s, only 18 Kākāpō were known to exist in New Zealand. This flightless species—the world’s heaviest parrot—seemed doomed for extinction.

Kakapo on clutch. (Photo by Theo Thompson)

In 1977 a population of Kākāpō was discovered on the third largest island of New Zealand, Rakiura (Stewart) Island, providing new hope for the survival of this precious bird. Since then, a small team of dedicated staff from the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) has worked tirelessly to protect, manage and grow the Kākāpō population. Staff work year round to ensure the birds are safe, healthy and well fed. Re:wild is an official supporter of DOC’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme.

Ranger Tim in tiger country looking for Attenborough- Whenua Hou. (Photo courtesy of New Zealand Department of Conservation)

DOC has been supported by volunteers throughout New Zealand, and increasingly overseas. While New Zealand works toward Predator Free New Zealand, the Kākāpō have been removed from the main islands to breed safely on three New Zealand islands that are predator-free. The Kākāpō population has gone from 86 adults in 2007 to 208 in 2020.  

The Re:wild Solution

The aim of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme is to work together to restore Kākāpō to large areas of their former natural range as a functioning part of the ecosystem. The program combines the efforts of scientists, rangers and volunteers charged with looking after the few remaining Kākāpō in the world. The Kākāpō Recovery Programme aims to establish at least two managed populations and another self-sustaining population, each with at least 50 breeding-aged females, in a protected habitat.

Kakapo Chick Photo by: Jake Osborne (https://www.flickr.com/photos/theylooklikeus/24913325684/in/photolist-6BW5Ya-6C1exs-9BmiRP-arC1HF-arEG2m-9CVowN-HvRs-arC2wH-YrkrdT-9zaeTR-9CUFiH-29oBKiW-dZBHbi-dZHr6d-23edK4f-DC3uSv-23GsfHg-9CU5sX-auYwsT-29oBJCC-nCzFnm-Cmq29A-arC2LH-arEFcd-9zcWtW-9z9TQt-arC3bT-nxRxc3-9z9USg-arEGQ5-Vusvpd-UgiVqm-nAxt7C-7pBacF-9PufJ1-9Pufih-29oCYow-wmbR5D-bE7oR7-293qSb7-9PugZG-DUN2RA-4uxEev-EJq9yk-DXviL1-DVhc14-MsJvYP-umVcgk-n1N3tT-9CVnC1/)

To do so, the project’s ongoing goals include:

  • In the wild: Managing the birds to ensure they are healthy and ready for breeding.

  • Research: Researching new ideas that might help ensure a future for the Kākāpō.

  • Technology: Developing new technology that helps the recovery program in its daily work.

Partners

Wild Facts

  • Thanks to conservation efforts, Kākāpō have gone from 18 left in the wild to more than 208 today.

  • Male Kākāpō can weigh up to nearly 9 pounds.

  • Kākāpōs may be one of the longest-lived birds.

Get wild and explore more:

Solutions

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the interrelated crises of wildlife extinctions, climate change and pandemics. Re:wild works with local and Indigenous communities, conservation partners, governments and others to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Our Kākāpō conservation approaches primarily includes:

conservation breeding, translocations and reintroductions

Creating insurance populations to prevent extinction and active management of wildlife populations to help restore them to healthy and self-sustainable numbers across their natural range.

Read more
The Plan

The Plan

The Kākāpō Recovery Programme aims to establish at least two managed populations and another self-sustaining population, each with at least 50 breeding-aged females, in a protected habitat.

Population size:

208+ individuals

IUCN Red List Status

Critically Endangered

Population trend:

Increasing

act:now

Make an impact.

Be part of the global movement.

Help protect and restore our planet.