Meet the kākāpō, the nocturnal, flightless parrot known for its charismatic nature and owl-like face. It’s also known for being the world’s fattest parrot. A few hundred years ago the chubby parrot was one of New Zealand’s most common birds, but now there are only 147 adult kākāpō left due to heavy hunting and loss of habitat. Because the population is so small every kākāpō has a name – including Ruth, Hoki, Suzanne, and Zephyr – and is subject to one of the most intensive management programs of any species in the world. Infertility and inbreeding have been long-term issues for the birds’ reproductive efforts, but conservationists have seemingly overcome the issue after a record 76 kākāpō was hatched this past year, with 60 expected to make it to adulthood. One of the main reasons behind the successful breeding is that the Rimu Tree, southern speeches of conifer, produced an abundance of the bird’s favorite fruit. As a testament to just how serious New Zealanders are in saving the kākāpō, they’re raising the newborn chicks on two predator-free islands off the coast of New Zealand, on protected sanctuaries that are pest-free. The big picture plan is to reintroduce the kākāpō back to mainland New Zealand once there are at least 500 of these big parrots.
This article was originally published on April 18, 2019