New Zealand kakapo sees bumper breeding season

One of this year's chicksImage copyright
Department of Conservation

Image caption

The arrival of so many chicks this year follows years of conservation efforts in New Zealand

There’s good news for one of the world’s rarest birds, after a successful breeding season saw its numbers boom by 28%.

The critically endangered kakapo now has a population of 157, after a record-breaking 34 chicks joined the ranks this year, the New Zealand Herald reports. The rotund, flightless parrots are only found in New Zealand, where they live on three predator-free islands.

Kakapo breed every two to four years but it’s not an easy process getting the new arrivals to fledging stage. In 2014, only six chicks were raised successfully. Conservationists have been hand-rearing some of this year’s youngsters, and they’re gradually being released to join their adult relatives.

In the 1970s there seemed to be little hope for the kakapo, with only 18 known to exist – all of them male. That changed when some females were discovered in 1977, and they’ve since benefited from a dedicated recovery programme.

Earlier this year, scientists also began sequencing the genomes of every living kakapo in order to manage their breeding and help improve genetic diversity among the population. The project, which was partially financed through crowdfunding, is the first time that genome sequencing of an entire population has taken place.

Image copyright
Department of Conservation/Don Merton

Image caption

There are so few kakapo that each is given a name – this is Trevor

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