Fifty six kakapo (not including  young from the 1999 season), are known to survive - 22 females and 34 males. These are currently located on 6 off-shore islands. Apart from 9 birds bred on the islands, all (47) have been relocated since 1975 to islands to protect them from introduced predatory mammals. No natural population is known to remain.
Some recent highlights include:
During 1998, 41 kakapo were transferred between islands (see distribution table below). Age is known for 11 birds (approximately 20% of the population) hatched since 1980. The remainder are of unknown age - but greater than 20 years. Overall, subadults now comprise approximately 14% of the population - ie. 7 subadults : 49 adults (2 (approximately 9%) females & 5 (approximately 15%) males are subadult). Seven of the 9 chicks hatched in the last 3 years have been male!
One adult death is known to have occurred in the last year - the male "Ken" died in July 1998 as a result of complications from a transmitter harness injury that occurred in mid-1995. This is the only known adult death in the last 5 years.
With 6 chicks raised in the last two years and just one adult death in the last 5 years the kakapo species is at last showing signs of recovery!
Three female kakapo ("Wendy", "Heather" & "Jean") were transferred from LBI to Maud Island in May/June 1998. All had free-ranged on Little Barrier since 1982. Two (Wendy & Heather) had received food supplementation since 1989 and all three had bred - Wendy raising one male chick in 1991. Jean had consistently refused food supplementation. During August 1998 one male ("Stumpy") was transferred to Maud and two males ("Luke" & "Merty") were transferred to Nukuwaiata/Inner Chetwode Island along with a male ("Jimmy") from Maud. The fertility/breeding fitness of the latter three males is in question. The remaining five males and one female are to be moved to Codfish and Pearl Islands in mid-1999.
The female ("Lisa") had not been seen since her transmitter was removed in 1986. However, mating sign was found at the summit track and bowl system (court) in early February 1999 indicating that at least one of two "lost" females may still survive. Allan Munn & Murray Willans and their dogs searched likely parts of LBI in late February/early March for any nesting female and in a "needle in the haystack" quest, Allan & his dog found Lisa incubating 3 eggs! Since Lisa had not been trained to take artificial foods, and rats are present on LBI, her viable & well incubated clutch was transferred on 9 March to the Burwood facility for artificial incubation and rearing. A further male & female ("Snark" & "Mike"), not seen since their transmitters failed (9 and 17 years ago respectively) may still survive. No sign of the missing male Snark was found during an intensive search of the LBI arena in late January 1999 when all known males were active there.
At least 16 of the original 22 kakapo released on Little Barrier in 1982 still survive, giving an average annual survival rate greater than 99%.
This was the first breeding recorded on Maud and indicates that kakapo can adapt to and breed effectively in an alien environment - an exotic pine plantation on a small (309ha), heavily modified island. This, and the successful transmission of genes from the male "Richard Henry", the last known kakapo from the NZ mainland, into the new generation and the survival of all three chicks - including a female - is cause for real optimism.
There has been little arena activity and no breeding on the Maud this season.
Twenty five of the original 30 birds released on Codfish Island in the late 1980's - early 1990's are known to survive, including all 10 females, giving an average survival rate in excess of 98% per annum.
Males on Pearl developed track & bowl systems ("courts")and since early December all ten adult males have been heard booming. Signs found since 3 January indicate that approximately 12 matings have occurred. Five of the 12 adult females have since laid - two of them ("Suzanne" & "Alice") laying a second (one egg) cluch in early March, 4 - 6 weeks after removal of their first clutches! In total, 13 eggs have been laid, 7 (& possibly 8) of which are viable. Because of the high risk of predation by weka and rats, eggs have been removed soon after laying for artificial incubation. Two eggs (Alice's 2nd & 3rd from her first clutch of 3) were viable and were moved from Pearl to the Burwood Bush nursery facility on 24 February. The more advanced of the two hatched on 27 February - the first kakapo egg to have been successfully incubated artificially for its full term! The other egg hatched on cue 3 days later. As an added bonus, this event has enabled us to finally confirm the incubation period as approximately 30 days. Top marks to Daryl Eason & the Pearl Island team for this excellent result. The 2 chicks were sexed from DNA obtained from blood remaining in their egg shells after hatching - both are male!
Never before has laying occurred so soon (9 - 10 months) after birds have been translocated - or over such an extended period (approximately 2months).
Diet & feeding regime: A new feeding regime simulating more closely the sporadic "masting" cycles of key natural foods was introduced in June 1998. Whereas birds had previously been supplementary fed throughout the year or pulsed on a 12 monthly cycle, the current regime is based on a two yearly cycle with foods being withheld for much of this period. Most Maud birds ceased receiving supplementary foods in June 1998 and will receive no food supplementation until the spring of 1999. Hopefully, a rising plane of nutrition at this time will stimulate breeding in the autumn of the year 2000.
June 1999 | January 1999 | 1998 | 1997