Early Polynesian settlers hunted kākāpō for its plumage and meat. From the 1840s, European settlers not only hunted the bird, they cleared the land and destroyed its habitat. Most devastating to kākāpō survival was the introduction of predators such as rats, cats and stoats.
By the 1970s only 18 kākāpō were left – all in Fiordland and all males. The species seemed doomed. But in 1977, a population of male and female kākāpō was discovered on Stewart Island, giving new hope for the survival of this precious bird.
All remaining kākāpō are now managed by DOC on three offshore islands: Codfish Island/Whenua Hou near Stewart Island, Anchor Island in Fiordland, and Te Hauturu-o-Toi / Little Barrier Island near Auckland.
Kākāpō Recovery Team
DOC has a Kākāpō Recovery Team advised by a Kākāpō Recovery Group.
Our staff that live on the offshore islands ensure the birds are safe, healthy and well-fed. The work of our other team members involve specialist skills including research, bird rearing, logistics, and advocacy.
The aim of Kākāpō Recovery is to establish at least two managed populations of kākāpō and another self-sustaining population, each with at least 50 breeding aged females, in a protected habitat.
Read the Kākāpō recovery plan 1996-2005 Part 1 (PDF, 340K) and Part 2 (PDF, 235K).
Meridian Energy Partnership
Since June 2016, Meridian Energy has been the National Partner of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme. This partnership contributes to the future growth of the kākāpō population, by helping DOC to fund research and pioneer conservation techniques relating to genetics, nutrition, disease management and finding new sites. Find out more about the partnership.
Sirocco, our Spokesbird for Conservation is a kākāpō who thinks he's human. He a conservation ambassador for his species, and a media superstar with his own Twitter and Facebook followers.
You can help
Visit the Kākāpō Recovery website to get involved through donations and volunteering.
Help protect New Zealand's native birds
- Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
- Don’t throw rubbish into water ways or storm drains.
- Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
- Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at night.
- Plant a range of native plants that provide food year-round to encourage birds into your garden.
When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
- Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep your dog under control.
- Prevent the spread of pests. Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
- Use available access ways to get to the beach. Stay out of fenced-off areas. Leave nesting birds alone.
- Get your dog trained in avian awareness, and help save forest birds like kiwi and weka.
- Follow the water care code. Keep water craft speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.