Kākāpō Recovery Programme
Here at Meridian, we’re helping the native kākāpō species recover.
The kākāpō is an endangered national treasure but, along with the Department of Conservation and Ngāi Tahu, we’re helping bring this taonga species back from the brink of extinction.
Kākāpō used to be widespread on mainland New Zealand but after the introduction of predators, their numbers drastically dropped and the species seemed doomed to extinction. That was until the Kākāpō Recovery programme hatched a bold plan to create predator free islands, with increased funding, staffing and advisory group. Now, there are birds on four predator free islands - Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, off Stewart Island, Anchor (Pukenui) and Chalky (Te Kākahu-o-Tamatea) Islands in southwest Fiordland and Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) in the Hauraki Gulf.
When the Kākāpō Recovery Programme was established in 1996, there were only 51 known birds. In 2018, there were 147 and after a bumper breeding season in 2019, the population is now sitting at around 200 birds.
“Kākāpō are treasured by Ngāi Tahu as a taonga species, they are part of our tribal identity and it’s wonderful to see that Meridian values them too,” says Tāne Davis, the Ngāi Tahu appointee to the Kākāpō Recovery Group.
“The Department of Conservation’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme combines the efforts of rangers, scientists, volunteers and our partners to protect the kākāpō.” says Deidre Vercoe, DOC Operations Manager for the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.
“The birds inspire real passion from everyone involved in the work. It’s amazing to see what can be achieved working together to protect and grow the kākāpō population.”
It doesn’t stop there though. We put the mahi in alongside the kākāpō rangers on predator free islands to ensure they have fit-for-purpose power systems, which are powered primarily by the sun. This means incubators, brooders and feed-out gear can run efficiently and give the team the best chance at successfully managing breeding seasons.
Smart Eggs. The future of breeding.
One of the innovations we’re helping fund is the Smart Egg, a 3D-printed egg that helps with the incubation process. (But these eggs are only useful after breeding kicks off, which is why we’re also providing them with saxy saxophone music to get them in the mood.)
Often once a kākāpō lays an egg, the egg is removed from its nest and hatched in an incubator, and a dummy egg is placed in the nest in its place.
That’s where Smart Eggs come in.
Smart Eggs mimic the sound and motion of a real egg, ensuring the mother is prepared for the arrival of the chick after it’s hatched and is returned to the nest. Smart Eggs also keep track of other useful data, like the temperature and humidity of the nest. All this results in a higher hatching rate than the natural approach.
Developed in collaboration with the International Centre of Birds of Prey, if Smart Eggs are a success with the Kākāpō Recovery Programme, they could be used with many other endangered species around the globe.
Keen to volunteer?
The Kākāpō Recovery team are expecting a breeding season this coming summer so are calling for people to come and support this busy period of work. Volunteers support the skilled ranger team working on the offshore predator free islands.
Volunteering provides an amazing opportunity to experience these predator free islands and also supports essential work to promote successful breeding of the kākāpō. You’ll need to be fit and happy to work alone in the bush.
Everyone needs to be able to follow instructions well and get along with a mixed group of people sharing a small hut with limited facilities. The huts are well appointed, with power and hot running water, but comms can be limited and they are remote huts with all that entails.
The lead up to the holiday season is a busy one for everyone and that includes the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Kākāpō Recovery team. They’re anticipating that our feathery friends are going to have a pretty decent breeding season this summer and preparation has been in full swing.
The team’s been busy planning for this breeding season since 2016 with regular health checks for the birds and collecting data, and now it’s all systems go. The island huts have been packed with all sorts of supplies. They’re bursting with everything from loo roll to chocolate, baby bird formula to egg scoops made from tea strainers.