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Kakapo Rakiura flies south to new home

16 January 2013

Auckland Zoo's New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine senior vet in research and conservation medicine, Dr Richard Jakob-Hoff, with kakapo Rakiura.Rakiura, a young kakapo being treated at Auckland Zoo for the past three months, flies south today in good health to start a new life on Anchor Island in Fiordland.

Following an early morning Air New Zealand flight to Invercargill, Rakiura has a road trip to Te Anau then a helicopter flight to Anchor Island where 44 other kakapo live. She is expected to be settled in to a patch of forest by nightfall.

The 10-year-old female, previously on Codfish Island and one of eight kakapo relocated to Hauturu Island (Little Barrier) last year, was brought in to Auckland Zoo in October to be treated for weight loss and cloacitis - commonly referred to as "crusty bum".

"We had already treated Rakiura for a mild form of cloacitis prior to her move to Hauturu in May. But in October rangers on the island noticed her transmitter wasn't moving, and tracked her down to discover she'd lost considerable weight and had a much worse case of this infection," says the Zoo's senior vet in research and conservation, Dr Richard Jakob-Hoff.

"Despite extensive diagnostics the cause of the cloacitis remains a mystery. We're still waiting on the results of DNA tests for viral and bacterial organisms present, and will compare these with those of healthy kakapo to see if we can identify the causal organisms for what we think is a bacterial infection. 

Rakiura being held by vet nurse, Chelsea Dillon."In the meantime, she's good to go. Her blood cell count is normal, the infection has cleared up, and she now weighs a healthy 1.6kg. We'll all really miss her though. Kakapo are extraordinary birds and Rakiura is no exception," says Dr Jakob-Hoff.

Rakiura is one of just 125 kakapo in the world, and Kakapo Recovery Programme manager, Deidre Vercoe Scott, says rangers based on Anchor Island will be keeping a close eye on her health.

"Given Rakiura has had cloacitis before, it's possible she may have a reoccurrence so she'll be monitored closely.  In the meantime we will continue to work closely with the Auckland Zoo in a bid to better understand this condition," says Ms Vercoe Scott.

Kakapo Fast Facts

  • The kakapo or 'night parrot' is flightless, and the world's heaviest parrot. Unique to New Zealand, it was pushed toward extinction by human colonisation and the introduction of rats, stoats and possums
  • By 1995, only 50 kakapo were known to exist. Today there are 125 kakapo being managed by the Department of Conservation on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) near Stewart Island, on Anchor Island in Fiordland, and on Hauturu (Little Barrier) Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
  • Seven kakapo are living on Hauturu Island, including Rakiura's mother Flossie. These kakapo are all fitted with tracking devices so rangers can monitor them. The move to Hauturu is a trial to determine whether kakapo can breed on their own without supplementary feeding now that rats are no longer present. (Rats were eradicated from Hauturu in 2004).
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