29 May 2019

Kākāpō health concerns continue

From Kākāpō Files, 2:00 pm on 29 May 2019

The number of cases of aspergillosis in the kākāpō population continues to rise. The fungal disease has already caused the deaths of two adult females and three chicks, and it has now been confirmed in a further two adult females and six chicks.

Twenty two kākāpō are already in veterinary hospitals for testing and treatment of aspergillosis as well as other medical conditions, and they are about to be joined by a further eight birds from Whenua Hou / Codfish Island.

The disease continues to be confined to Whenua Hou. Four chicks from Anchor Island are in treatment but do not have aspergillosis.

The adult kākāpō population has dropped to 142 birds, following the death of 10-year-old Huhana, while the founder male Merty has been declared dead after not being seen for five years. There are 73 living chicks.

Kākāpō chick Nora-1-A has just been diagnosed with severe aspergillosis, which causes fungal pneumonia and led to the death of her foster mother, Huhana.

Kākāpō chick Nora-1-A has just been diagnosed with severe aspergillosis, which causes fungal pneumonia and led to the death of her foster mother, Huhana. Photo: Andrew Digby / DOC

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The adult females Hoki and Huhana have already died from aspergillosis, while Weheruatanga-O-Te-Po and Margaret-Maree have been confirmed with the disease. A number of chicks, including Nora-1-A and Pura-1-B, have also been confirmed with the fungal infection.

The female Pounamu has tested negative for aspergillosis.

Four chicks from Anchor island that were sent to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital with suspected aspergillosis following unexplained weight loss have been CT scanned and are negative for the disease.

The founder male Merv is being sent off Whenua Hou for ophthalmological treatment for suspected cataracts in both eyes.

The six youngest chicks that were still in nests on Whenua Hou have been brought into a pen for hand-rearing, in an effort to remove them from nests that may contain high numbers of aspergillosis spores following a warm, wet autumn.

UPDATE 3 JUNE

The founder female Cyndy and a further four chicks have been sent to the mainland with suspected aspergillosis, bringing the number of birds in treatment to 35.

Boomer-3-A is a male kākāpō chick, who has been raised by foster mum Queenie.

Boomer-3-A is a male kākāpō chick, who has been raised by foster mum Queenie. Photo: Andrew Digby / DOC

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 and Kākāpō Files producer Alison Ballance are on Twitter.

Find the full kākāpō story in the book Kākāpō – rescued from the brink of extinction by Alison Ballance (2018).

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