No dodo

New Zealand programme to save endangered kakapo parrots

source: Stephanie Pain
New Scientist June 1 2002
starts p 32, 6 pages long

New Zealand's National Kakapo Team is encouraged by the hatching of 26 kakapo chicks in 2002. Kakapos are large parrots, and there were fears that they could become extinct when their numbers dropped to 50 in 1995. These parrots are nocturnal and cannot fly, though they excel at climbing. The sounds they make are varied and include booms and growls. They are the largest parrots known, with some males weighing over 2.5 kg, and they may live to over 100-years-old.

Humans, and animals such as cats and dogs introduced by humans, led to a sharp drop in the population of Kakapos, which were thought to be extinct by the end of the 1960s. Then the birds were discovered in some remote locations, and moved to Maud and Codfish islands where they would be safer, with watches ket over their nests. Extra food was provided, but the birds on Codfish island waited until rimu trees had masted before breeding. This signal to breed led to matings, with 20 females laying eggs in 2002, including some very old females. Eggs were swapped from fertile birds and put into the nests of birds with infertile eggs, to encourage birds with fertile eggs to produce more.

The trigger from the rimu tree is not well understood, and it is possible that a chemical is involved which could be isolated to encourage more breeding. There are also plans to extend the programme to a third island.