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.
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.
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.
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.