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Cold & wet spring kills hopes for kakapo breeding season

14/12/2012 10:13:44

Hopes for a good breeding season for kakapo have disappeared after a cold and wet spring. Photo credit DOC

Poor rimu fruit harvest means just a few kakapo will nest this season
December 2012. Kakapo Recovery programme manager Deidre Vercoe Scott said indications from earlier in the year suggested a reasonable rimu fruit supply on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island this summer.

"We've spent the past few months preparing for up to 15 nests on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, but the latest data from the island suggests we may be looking at only several nests this season. It is most likely that the record cold, wet Southland spring had stopped the rimu fruit - which female kakapo feed to their chicks - from developing. It is thought female kakapo use the availability of the fruit as a cue for breeding," she said.

67% decline in fruit abundance
"Our rimu fruit count last month shows there has been a 67 percent decline in fruit abundance since it was last counted in February. Compare that to the 38 percent we lost after the big September snow in 2010 and it's obvious the fruit has been hit hard."

As a result, plans to recruit volunteers to mind the nests had been cancelled, Ms Vercoe Scott said.

"Luckily, all is not lost. There are some trees with good supplies and, if they're located in a female's home range, we'd still expect some nesting to occur."

Supplementary food pellets
Part of the work being carried out by Kakapo Recovery involves trialling supplementary food pellets that scientists hope will be accepted by female kakapo, as an alternative to rimu, to feed their chicks. Several volunteers including workers from New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Forest and Bird, key partners in Kakapo Recovery, would be assisting with the supplementary food trials this season, she said.

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