This year’s kākāpō breeding season looks set to become the best since the Department of Conservation’s recovery programme began 25 years ago. A record 36 chicks bring the total population to 123 birds.
Kākāpō are spread across three islands – Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, Puke Nui/Anchor Island in Fiordland, and Hauturu/Little Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf – were staff and volunteers are working hard to look after the chicks that are still on nests, getting close to fledging.
However, some chicks had to be taken off their island sanctuaries because they were either not gaining enough weight or because of injuries and respiratory conditions that require veterinary care. At the moment, 12 chicks are being looked after at DOC’s hand-rearing facility in Invercargill, which is open to the public during weekends throughout May.
Veterinary nurse Alisha Sherriff says each chick is fed a parrot hand-rearing formula that is made up according to its weight and age, and administered at just the right temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, which matches the body temperature of an adult female bird. "She regurgitates from her crop into theirs, and then it's obviously mixed with her saliva and her bacteria which helps with the digestion and immunity of the chick. We add to the food acidophilus just to give them extra gut flora."