First fertile egg confirmed for kakapo breeding season
Kakapo female on her nest. Photo credit Don Merton.
Kakapo breeding season 2009 gets underway
January 14, 2009. At least one fertile kakapo egg has been laid on , signalling the start of the kakapo breeding season.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is expecting it to be bumper breeding season for the kakapo, and with conditions similar to 2002 when a record 24 chicks hatched, it is hoped that the kakapo population will top 100.
Potential for 40 chicks
Kakapo Recovery team leader Deidre Vercoe said with more females reaching breeding age and the level of rimu fruiting on the island, this breeding season could produce as many as 40 chicks
Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, where most Kakapo live. Credit Don Merton.
"Two of the 13 females that hatched in 2002, bred last year at just six years old, which was really exciting because it was previously thought that their breeding age was nine years old. This year we are hoping that all of these now seven-year-old females will nest."
Conservation Minister, Tim Groser says this is an exciting time for the Kakapo Recovery team and is extremely encouraging news for the endangered kakapo.
"I am delighted with this early result - it is really excellent news for the long-term survival of the kakapo. This breeding season has real potential to lift kakapo numbers to over 100 which is just reward for dedicated DOC staff and volunteers."
Kakapo Recovery is a partnership between the Department of Conservation, Rio Tinto Alcan (NZ) Ltd and Forest and Bird.
While infertility has been one of the biggest reproductive issues facing the breeding programme the kakapo team is hopeful for a breeding season like 2008 where there was 100 per cent fertility.
"While we are planning for the best, we are also mindful that this is nature, and factors beyond our control could limit results," Ms Vercoe said. "The whole team is set to go and looking forward to a very busy, rewarding season."
Increased genetic diversity
Rimu fruit, on which kakapo rely during breeding seasons. Credit Don Merton.
The Department is also optimistic this breeding season will bring with it some genetic diversity through Richard Henry's offspring. Richard Henry is the only surviving kakapo from Fiordland. Until this year his sons, Sinbad and Gulliver had not set themselves up a booming site or attracted a female.
However, with the death of Bill, a successful breeder who died last year of old age, Sinbad has taken over Bill's old breeding site. Gulliver is also set to go with a new ‘track and bowl' breeding site established. Hopefully with more females available this year these two genetically valuable birds will mate.
It is also hoped Richard Henry's daughter, Kuia, aged 11, lays her first eggs this season.
Kakapo nest with eggs. Photo credit Don Merton.