The last four kākāpō chicks have returned home to Codfish Island (Whenuahou) from the hand-rearing facility in Invercargill.
Now ninety days old the chicks will spend up to six weeks in temporary outdoor pens while they wean off the hand-rearing food and onto natural vegetation. Each kākāpō will then be fitted with a tracking transmitter and slowly introduced into the wild in small groups around the island.
Getting the chicks home safely was a major relief for the kākāpō recovery team who worked tirelessly around-the-clock for three months to ensure the chicks’ survival. Twenty six chicks were removed from Codfish Island, north west of Stewart Island / Rakiura, at a few weeks old to be hand-raised as not enough rimu fruit ripened on the island for all kākāpō mothers to feed their chicks on.
While there are still risks, as is the case for any young animal when it goes out on its own, being on predator-free Codfish Island under the ever-watchful eye of a team of dedicated DOC staff means they are as safe as they can be.
There were no problems with the transfer from Invercargill to Codfish Island said kākāpō recovery team leader Deirdre Vercoe who escorted the precious cargo home.
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 the huge step forward was testament to the kākāpō recovery team’s dedication and hard work.
“In 1995 only 51 kākāpō were known to be alive. Today there are 124. We are proud to be associated with this programme and giving hope to the survival of the species.”
The Kākāpō Recovery Programme is a partnership between the Department of Conservation, Rio Tinto Alcan New Zealand and Forest & Bird.