While the Optimist Daily may not have a favorite bird per se, the kākāpō is definitely one of our favorites. The kākāpō is a colorful parrot with intricate patterns, and it so happens to be the world’s fattest parrot.
Unfortunately for our feathered friends in New Zealand, a respiratory disease called aspergillosis began to spread through its endangered population, threatening to reverse the gains of the bird’s most successful breeding season in living memory—something we wrote about last year.
With aspergillosis, by the time a wild bird begins to display symptoms – or anything unusual shows up in blood tests – it is usually too late to save them. The scientists mapped out the 12 birds with the highest risk of the sickness and found out that all 12 appeared to have lesions on their lungs. That meant the disease was spreading, and that huge action would be needed to save the rare bird from being wiped out. New Zealand, being the small country that it is, was not prepared with the resources or people to carry out this rescue mission, which led to volunteer vets arriving from around the world to help.
Extra pens were built to house the birds. Some went to the city’s regional parks to gather armfuls of the native plants kākāpō like to eat. Others took it upon themselves to help evacuate and scan the birds for the sickness. Many birds needed months of daily care, but the outbreak was contained. The necessary drugs could be delivered to stop the fungal spread, allowing most of the record-breaking 80 chicks to survive their first few months. Chicks became juveniles, and while a few died from other causes, most survived and are now counted in the population number: 211, up from a population of the 123 kākāpō living seven years ago.
The mission of saving the kākāpō was far more complex than this story does justice to, so we invite to take a deeper look at a story published by the Guardian about how the world’s fattest parrot came back from the brink of extinction.