Kākāpō Bella Rose arrived here from Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) with a severe case of ‘crusty bum’, clinically known as cloacitis or vent dermatitis. The cloaca is vital to the survival of kākāpō: they use this to lay eggs, mate, and excrete waste. Most of the time cloacitis can be a relatively minor issue, but in severe cases it can be so painful that the bird stops eating. On average Auckland Zoo will treat a bird for this problem at least once a year. Our conservation partners at Kākāpō Recovery keep a watchful eye on the 210 kākāpō in their care, across three predator-free sanctuary islands, and it’s a pleasure to help provide them with veterinary assistance when needed.
Upon Bella Rose’s arrival she underwent blood tests, X-rays and cloacal endoscopy (where we put a tiny camera inside her cloaca), while ongoing treatment involves pain relief, antibiotics, antifungals and cleaning of the vent area. It’s likely to be a long stay for Bella Rose, as it’s vital we get her weight up to make sure she is strong enough to go back to her island home. She is doing well and putting on weight, and has even surprised the team by eating by herself overnight, but still needs to get two supplemental tube feeds daily!
Research is ongoing to learn more about what causes this painful issue in kākāpō, some of which has been carried out by our very own Dr. Richard Jakob-Hoff.