19 Feb 2016

First kakapo of the year safely hatched

7:23 pm on 19 February 2016

The first kakapo chick of 2016 has hatched, continuing a record breeding season.

The first kakapo chick born in 2016.

The first kakapo chick born in 2016. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

The Department of Conservation (DoC) said the chick signalled the next chapter after a record breeding season.

Operations manager for kakapo Deidre Vercoe said the chick was found by rangers on Anchor Island in Fiordland after viewing its mother Tiwhiri's nest camera on Thursday.

Tiwhiri, 7, is a first-time mum and appeared to be doing well.

Jen Waite, left, and Lyndsay Murray with the chick.

Jen Waite, left, and Lyndsay Murray with the chick. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

There are fewer than 150 of the native, flightless parrots, only found in New Zealand, left.

There were only 50 of the birds when DOC's breeding programme began in 1990.

Ms Vercoe said it was a dream start to the busy months ahead, with more chicks expected in the coming weeks.

"We're thrilled that the record level of breeding this season will enable us to continue our work to bring this very unique New Zealand species back from the brink of extinction."

However, the arrival of Tiwhiri's chick comes as the team mourns the death of one of the original male kakapo, Smoko, possibly as a result of a fight with another male on Tuesday.

"He was first discovered on Stewart Island 25 years ago, so his age was unknown. His body had been sent to Auckland Zoo where vets would investigate the cause," Deidre Vercoe said.

The kakapo is critically endangered.

The kakapo is critically endangered. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Ms Vercoe said of the remaining kakapo, there were 31 birds with ages that were not known. They had been discovered on Stewart Island, mostly during the late 1980s.

"Potentially, quite a few of these kakapo could be quite old - 60 years plus, even, so deaths within that group are to be expected."

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