New Zealand: The kakapo parrot threatened with extinction sees its population increase

New Zealand: The kakapo parrot threatened with extinction sees its population increase

by Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The population of kakapo, an endangered New Zealand parrot, increased by 25 percent last year to 252 birds, thanks to a good breeding season and the success of artificial insemination, the Conservation ministry said on Tuesday.

Kakapos, the heaviest parrots in the world, cannot fly to protect themselves from predators and had almost disappeared. The problem has been exacerbated by inbreeding and very low fertility; only 50% of eggs are fertilized. In addition, the breeding season occurs only every two or three years, when the native rimu pines bear fruit.

Kakapo’s population is now at its highest level since the 1970s.

“There were only 86 kakapos when I started working as a forest ranger (in charge of the) kakapo in 2002. This figure was frightening. Having a breeding season with 55 chicks is a very positive step,” said Deidre Vercoe, head of the kakapo conservation program.

This program, created in 1995, is the result of a collaboration between the New Zealand Ministry of Conservation and the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe and uses volunteers to help monitor the nests.

The success of this season is largely related to the amount of fruit on the rimu pines and the artificial insemination that gave birth to eight chicks compared to only five in the decade leading up to 2019, Deidre Vercoe said in an email.

“The use of artificial insemination has allowed some males, who had not yet procreated naturally, to still be represented in the future genetic heritage,” said Deidre Vercoe.

“Artificial insemination can also help to increase the fertility of the eggs laid.”

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; French version by Dina Kartit, editing by Kate Entringer)

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