The population of New Zealand’s endangered kakapo rose 25% last year to 252 birds, thanks in part to the success of artificial insemination, the country’s conservation ministry said on Tuesday.
Cockapoos, the heaviest parrots in the world, cannot fly to protect themselves from predators. This species became extinct about fifty years ago.
The problem is exacerbated by inbreeding and extremely low fertility: only 50% of eggs are fertilized. Also, the breeding season of this “parrot-owl” occurs only every two or three years, the rimu berries – which the females feed on – are abundant.
It must be said that its breeding habits are not common. To reproduce, the male emits a sound that can be heard all around. Females then join their partners with the one they like the most.
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Kakapo populations are now at their highest level since the 1970s. “When I started working as a ranger in 2002 there were only 86 kakapo. That number was scary. Breeding with 55 chicks is a very positive step,” says Deirdre Vergo, head of the kakabo conservation program.
Created in 1995, the program is the result of a joint effort between the New Zealand Department of Conservation, the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe and volunteers to help monitor the nests.
Much of this season’s success was due to the size of the fruit on the Rimu pines and artificial insemination, which produced eight chicks compared to just five in the previous decade, says Deirdre Vergo.
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