The population of New Zealand’s endangered kakapo parrots has grown significantly in the past year to more than 250, largely due to the success of artificial insemination, Reuters reports.
The kakapo population has grown by 25% to 252 birds, due to a good breeding season and the success of artificial insemination, according to the New Zealand Species Conservation Authority.
Kakapo parrots were nearly wiped out by predators such as rats because the birds cannot fly. The problem has also been exacerbated by very low fecundity – only 50% of eggs are fertilized – and the fact that the species only breeds every two or three years.
The kakapo is the heaviest parrot in the world, and currently the species has reached its highest population since the 1970s, Reuters continues. “When we started in 2002, there were only 86, which was a frightening number. The fact that we now have a breeding season with 55 chicks is a big step,” said Deidre Vercoe, operations manager for the Kakapo Recovery Program.
The program was established in 1995 and is a collaboration between the New Zealand Species Survival Authority and the Maori Ngai Tahu tribe, who, with the help of volunteers, conduct activities such as monitoring nests to protect the birds from danger.
Some birds were rescued after getting stuck in mud or between trees. Vercoe explained in an email that much of the success this season was due to the abundance of fruit from the rimu trees. Birds breed only once every two or three years when these trees bear fruit.
The success of artificial insemination also contributed significantly to the species’ recovery this season.
Eight young were born through artificial insemination and survived, compared to only five between 2009 and 2019. “Artificial insemination can also help increase the fertility of the eggs laid,” Deidre Vercoe added.