Parrot World’s Endangered Heavyweight Faces New Threat

An unprecedented disease outbreak has pressed the critically endangered kakapo, the world’s fattest parrot, nearer to extinction, New Zealand scientists said Thursday. One of the last kakapo populations on remote Codfish Island has been hit with a fungal respiratory disease called aspergillosis, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said. It said 36 of the parrots were receiving treatment and seven had died, including two adults — an enormous reduction for a variety which has significantly less than 150 fully harvested birds still left.

DOC said in a statement Thursday. The setback comes just weeks after researchers hailed a bumper breeding season for the flightless, nocturnal parrot, which was once thought to be extinct. An intense, decades-long conservation effort has seen kakapo numbers rise from a minimum of about 50 in 1990 slowly, calendar year there was wish the species was turning the part and previously this. The breeding program resulted in 249 eggs laid, year fueling expectations at least 75 chicks would survive the more than double the prior record. But Auckland Zoo veterinarian Adam Chatterton said attempts were focussed on keeping the wild birds infected by aspergillosis now, which before this year was known to have wiped out just one single kakapo.

The hypothesis would be that the warm weather and crowded breeding nests on Codfish Island have led to an abundance of aspergillosis spores. The plump, green kakapo — the name means “night parrot” in Maori — was once so common an early European explorer said they could be shaken from the trees and shrubs like apples.

Numbers dropped as launching pests such as stoats, cats, and dogs hunted the ground-dwelling parrots, which can weight up to four kilograms (nine pounds). Their slow mating further harmed the kakapo’s likelihood of success, as they only partner every two to four years when New Zealand’s native rimu trees are filled with fruit.

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