July 15, 2015
A young female kakapo named Ellie has been found dead on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, bringing the total population of the critically endangered bird down to 125.
Kakapo Recovery rangers found her body last week, although there was no obvious sign of illness or injury. Data from Ellie’s transmitter confirmed she had died about June 23. Her body would be sent to the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM), at Auckland Zoo, for an autopsy.
Conservation Services manager kakapo/takahe Deidre Vercoe said Ellie, who hatched on Hauturu o Toi/Little Barrier Island in 1999, had bred twice – in 2009 and 2011 – but both her single-egg clutches had been infertile.
“Given that kakapo can potentially live more than 60 years, it’s a tragedy that she has died at the age of 16, when she may have had decades of successful breeding ahead of her.”
The loss was softened by the likelihood of a bumper kakapo breeding season, next summer, she said.
“If spring temperatures are average or better, all indications are there will be a rimu mast on Whenua Hou/Codfish, which is the trigger for breeding on the island. Anchor Island, in Dusky Sound, could also produce kakapo chicks for the very first time, with rimu and beech masts likely.
“This means we could potentially have more than 25 chicks added to the kakapo population, which would be so fantastic.”