The last five kākāpō chicks have been released from their temporary outdoor pens and are now roaming free on Whenua hou (Codfish Island).
The chicks spent up to six weeks in temporary outdoor pens while they were weaned off the hand-rearing food and onto natural vegetation. Each kākāpō was fitted with a tracking transmitter and introduced into the wild in small groups around the island.
Department of Conservation staff have been carefully following each chick while they explore their new habitat.
Kākāpō recovery team leader Deidre Vercoe said being on predator-free Codfish Island was the best possible environment for a young kākāpō to learn natural behaviour.
Kākāpō Recovery is a partnership between the Department of Conservation, Rio Tinto Alcan New Zealand and Forest & Bird.
The chicks’ behaviours changed noticeably within the first few days of being released. "One of the things they learned very quickly was to seek really good shelter. But some of the lessons about living in the wild have been a bit tough - one chick needed to be helped out of a small swamp!" said Ms Vercoe.
As the chicks become more confident and self-sufficient there will be less need for interaction with humans. "A few chicks remain keen to be visited but others have become truly wild kākāpō, running away from the hands that once fed them,' said Ms Vercoe.
The hugely successful breeding season of 2009 brings the critically endangered kākāpō population to 124.
New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited (NZAS) general manager Paul Hemburrow said releasing this season’s chicks onto Codfish Island (Whenua hou) was a significant milestone in the programme.
"Now the kākāpō chicks really have left the nest and are officially part of the national kākāpō population. It’s a proud moment for everyone involved in this extraordinary kākāpō season."