Kākāpō females Hinemoa and Mati-Mā were flown up to our vet hospital from their home, Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) in early January – sadly because they both have recurring cases of the very painful illness, cloacitis.

Our conservation partners, Kākāpō Recovery, were alerted something was amiss with these two birds by the abnormal changes in signals they began receiving from their transmitters.

You may recall Hinemoa and Mati-Mā each spent several months here at Auckland Zoo last year for this condition. They’re again being treated with antibiotics, antifungal, and pain relief medications as well as topical treatments to further aid healing. They’re also being tube-fed a high-nutrition formula twice daily along with being given plenty of their favourite browse (plants) – for perching/resting in, and to encourage eating.

Cloacitis, so far only found in kākāpō on Whenua Hou, causes inflammation of the surrounding skin and mucosal (inner) lining of the cloaca (the hole through which kākāpō excrete waste and mate/lay eggs). As you can imagine, it’s enough to make anyone grumpy!

Twelve-year-old Hinemoa squawked loudly when we recently observed vet nurse Breeze catching her up so she and veterinary resident Dr Stefan could feed and medicate the lesions. She has a particularly severe case – only weighing 1.1kg and with lesions all the way around the cloaca.

“Anyone with a bottom as sore as Hinemoa’s is naturally going to be down in the dumps and pretty grumpy,” explains the zoo’s veterinary services manager, Dr James.

“She was examined and medicated on the island for a few days until a flight could be arranged and since arrival at the zoo, we have performed additional essential tests and examinations. Although having cloacitis can’t be much fun, this is a treatable condition and the good news is Hinemoa has started to respond - though complete treatment usually takes six to 12 weeks.”

Mati-Mā, who turns three-years-old in a few weeks, has a moderate case, so less severe than Hinemoa, but the lesions are still advanced and she requires veterinary care.  The vet team is pleased to say she’s eating extremely well – tucking into lots of browse – including one of her favourite plants, corokia.  

Thanks to our amazing horticulture team, our vet hospital’s kākāpō patients are regularly supplied with fresh browse.  While no hospital stay can ever replicate home – our veterinary and horticulture teams work hard to create a kākāpō ward lush with plants that smell, taste, and feel as close as practical to kākāpō forest on Whenua Hou!