24 Oct 2008

Kakapo to be released back into wild

11:59 am on 24 October 2008

A male kakapo named Lee, who was close to death from lead poisoning, is ready to return to the wild after a two-month stay at Auckland Zoo.

Lee was found on Stewart Island in 1983. Only 91 kakapo are known to be in existence.

Lee and another kakapo were moved from Codfish Island in the south to Anchor Island in Fiordland in April.

During a routine check in August, the Department of Conservation found he had lost a significant amount of weight - dropping more than 1kg to 1.2kg at one point.

Blood tests failed to reveal the reason, so the bird was sent to Auckland Zoo, where tests revealed toxic levels of lead in his system.

The exact source of the lead is unknown, but DoC says it most likely came from a sinker or gunshot.

He's now bound for his old stomping ground on Codfish Island.