The total population of the critically endangered kākāpō has dropped to 125 now following a discovery of a dead young female bird, Ellie, on Whenua Hōu (Codfish Island) west of Stewart Island.
Ellie was one of only 60 known female kākāpō. Kākāpō 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 in late June.
Conservation Services manager (Kākāpō/Takahe) Deidre Vercoe said Ellie, who hatched on Hauturu o Toi in 1999, had bred twice in 2009 and 2011, but both her single-egg clutches had been infertile.
“Given that kākāpō 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.”
Despite the loss, Vercoe is optimistic for the upcoming kākāpō breeding season, saying, "If spring temperatures are average or better, all indications are there will be a rimu mast on Whenua Hou, 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.”
More information on kākāpō recovery can be found here.