Science / Environment

Kākāpō chicks growing up

16:00 pm on 5 August 2019

Forty-two of this year’s kākāpō chicks have graduated to being juveniles. They pass this milestone when they reach 150 days old.

A further 30 chicks will reach the juvenile stage over the coming weeks.

Eight kākāpō chicks have been cured of aspergillosis, and will soon be returned to the wild.


When kākāpō chicks reach 150 days old they graduate to being juveniles. They won't be counted as adults until they are four and a half years old. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

You can subscribe to the Kākāpō Files as a podcast - for free - at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts and RadioPublic.

Daryl Eason from the Kākāpō Recovery Team at the Department of Conservation says there are still 18 birds being treated at various wildlife hospitals. Eight of these will soon be discharged, seven are still being treated for the fungal disease aspergillosis, and a further five are being treated for noon-aspergillosis related conditions.

Alice-3-A was one of the first kākāpō chicks to be diagnosed with aspergillosis in May, and at the time she was diagnosed with multiple granulomas, which are walled-off areas of fungal infection. She has responded well to treatment, and her lungs and respiratory system are now clear of infection.

Auckland Zoo vet James Chatterton told Daryl that he is amazed, as he has never encountered a bird with audible respiratory problems of this intensity that has recovered.

Ra-2-B was found on Anchor Island with one leg caught in the fork of a tree, leading to severe dislocation and loss of circulation to that leg. She is being treated at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital, and although her circulation has been mostly restored she may lose several toes. Daryl says it will be some time before the skin recovers and it becomes clear whether the tendons will recover from the trauma.

Queenie-3-A, who had a broken leg, has now fully recovered and will be returned to the wild soon.

Daryl reports that some juveniles, such as Suzanne-3-A, are now fully independent in the wild, have left their mothers and siblings and are ranging widely as they explore the islands.

He says the final official tally of how many chicks were produced in this year’s breeding won’t happen until everyone has been discharged from the vet hospitals.

Gadget the rodent detector dog

The story about conservation dog Gadget first played on Our Changing World. It was recorded on Whenua Hou and highlights the efforts that go into keeping pests off New Zealand’s conservation islands.

Find out more

If you would like to know more about kākāpō you can follow the Kākāpō Recovery Programme on Facebook and Instagram. Kākāpō scientist Andrew Digby and Kākāpō Files producer Alison Ballance are on Twitter.

Find the full kākāpō story in the book Kākāpō – rescued from the brink of extinction by Alison Ballance (2018).