Endangered Kakapo chicks receive rock star welcome

Three of New Zealand's cutest chicks pulled 'rockstar' crowds when they made their debut at the Kakapo Chicks Day Out in the historic South Island settlement of Arrowtown.

Two-and-a-half-month-old kakapo chicks - Lisa1, Rakuira2 and Heather1 - were given a warm welcome by a host of admirers who were thrilled to catch a glimpse of the endangered mountain parrots in a special one-off viewing.

The Kakapo Chicks Day Out event was organised by premier South Island tourism operator Real Journeys and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation Kakapo Recovery team, who transported the cute green parrots to Arrowtown from their hatchery in Invercargill.

Real Journeys Chief Executive Richard Lauder said the noctural flightless kakapo chicks were received like "rock-stars" by the local community.

"There has been an incredible public turnout, despite the poor weather we’ve had people lining up down the street," said Lauder.

"But undoubtedly the best part has been the huge smiles and the fascinated school kids after they have been in the viewing room. It’s been a very special day for all involved, including our staff."

Money raised

Through a gold coin donation entry over NZ$1,700 was raised for the Kakapo Recovery Programme, and another NZ$2000 for a kakapo adoption programme.

Local school girl, Sian Davis, worked hard selling plums and possum key rings to save $200 to adopt two kakapo - Lisa1 and Rangi.

Head of the Department of Conservation Kakapo Recovery team Deidre Vercoe Scott said the chicks travelled very well from Invercargill and had been busy in their enclosure.

"They have really taken everything in their stride and gone about their business of feeding, climbing and interacting which has been fantastic for everyone to see," Vercoe said.

"We managed to generate some great support for the programme but more importantly allow people a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the chicks."

Kakapo Recovery

Kakapo Recovery is a partnership between Department of Conservation, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Royal NZ Forest and Bird Society. It was formed in 1990 to save the native bird - a large noctural flightless parrot whose species almost disappeared with the arrival of humans and predators.

By the 1970s only 18 kakapo were known to exist, but in 1977 male and female kakapo were discovered living on Stewart Island, an untouched nature-lovers paradise where native New Zealand wildlife thrives.

For nearly 40 years the Department of Conservation and many volunteers, both local and international, have worked hard to protect and grow the population of these precious birds.

Today there are kakapo breeding populations on three predator-free islands: Whenua Hou / Codfish Island which is just off Stewart Island, Anchor Island in southwest Fiordland, and Hauturu / Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland.

The aim of Kakapo Recovery is to establish managed and self-sustaining populations of this curious New Zealand native bird.

About the kakapo

The kakapo is an eye-catching green mountain parrot found only in New Zealand. It lays claim to possibly being one of the oldest living birds and is the world’s heaviest parrot.

It is a flightless bird making it easy prey for predators. However it has strong legs that enable it to climb trees and use its wings like a ‘parachute’ to return to the forest floor.

Like New Zealand’s iconic kiwi bird, the kakapo is nocturnal. Kakapo roost in trees or on the ground during the day and are most active at night.

They are known to be very friendly birds with a hint of cheekiness. Both Māori and early European settlers kept kakapo as pets. In 1845 New Zealand Governor, George Grey, described the behavior of his pet kakapo as "more like that of a dog than a bird".

More information

Sirocco: NZ's conservation spokesbird