5 Feb 2019

Round two begins

From Kākāpō Files, 5:30 pm on 5 February 2019

The Kākāpō Recovery team continue to be very busy. Seven ... o no, make that eight already ... kākāpō chicks have hatched (and counting) and the first batch are heading to the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital to be hand-reared.

The females on Anchor Island have begun mating again.

And there is now breeding on three kākāpō  islands, with Lisa the first female to mate on Hauturu / Little Barrier Island, near Auckland.

Roha-1-A is the seventh kākāpō chick to hatch in the 2019 breeding season.

Roha-1-A is the seventh kākāpō chick to hatch in the 2019 breeding season. Photo: Jodie Crane / DOC

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Lisa - the story of a 'missing kākāpō'

Lisa the kākāpō has a very interesting history. She is a founder bird from Stewart Island. She was first found as an adult in 1982, and then in 1992 she was moved to Hauturu / Little Barrier Island. Soon after her arrival her transmitter stopped working – and she disappeared.

Kākāpō are really well designed for going off the radar – they have perfect camouflage to just blend into the forest. They hole up during the day to sleep, and they creep around at night minding their own business. Put them on top of a rugged island with lots of steep- sided, never-visited valleys and it is very easy for them to go undetected.

Lisa became one of the missing kākāpō. Maybe dead but possibly still alive.

In the late 1990s a decision was made to take all the kākāpō off Hauturu as they weren’t being very successful at breeding. The plan was to concentrate all the females on Whenua Hou, so all the females had been removed, but not all the males. It was the summer of 1999 and the remaining males were booming.

Then one day, the DOC ranger found kākāpō mating sign in Ox’s bowl. Special kākāpō tracking dogs were brought in and eventually they found Lisa – on a nest – with three fertile eggs. Then just to make things even better all three hatched and were female. This was good news as at that time there were lots of male chicks. Her daughters are Ellie, Hauturu (after the island). and Aranga.

Lisa was moved to Whenua Hou, and in two of the following breeding season Lisa was the first female into action, mating with Basil at Christmas. She has had six more offspring, including Tiwhiri.

We’ve already heard about Tiwhiri in the Kākāpō Files, as she was one of the first females to mate on Anchor Island this season and she’s the mum of one of the first batch of chicks.

Grandmother Lisa is now back on Hauturu and has mated, probably with Jester. She mated with Jester in 2016 but laid infertile eggs so it’ll be interesting to see what happens this year.

Lisa, by the way, is not the only missing kākāpō to have eventually turned up – Rangi was found on Whenua Hou back in 2009 after hiding in plain sight for 22 years. There’s much more about that story in my book Kākāpō: rescued from the brink of extinction.

Find out more

If you would like to know more about kākāpō you can follow the Kākāpō Recovery Programme on Facebook and Instagram. Kākāpō scientist Andrew Digby is on Twitter.

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