Without a doubt, the kakapo parrot is unlike any other parrot in the world. Nocturnal and flightless, the kakapo (or owl parrot) may be one of the most ill-prepared birds if it even encountered a determined predator. What is more, the kakapo is a hefty animal—weighing up to eight pounds, more than any other parrot in the world. Yet while it may not seem that the animal is well adjusted to living a long life, it is estimated that the animal can live to be approximately 90 years old.
But the kakapo parrot is also in dire straits and is edging awfully close to the edge of extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its Red List of Threatened Species, the kakapo parrot is considered “critically endangered” and without proper intervention will soon become extinct within the next couple of generations. As of the latest count (conducted in 2009), only 124 birds were believed to be in existence—a small but promising number, judging from counts in the past.
Native to the islands of New Zealand, the kakapo’s range once spread between many of the New Zealand islands—specifically, the North, South and Stewart Islands. Today, the kakapo has been relegated to an area a fraction of the size of its traditional home, a small sliver of the Stewart Islands. Before the arrival of human civilization, the kakapo parrot only had to share its home with a couple species of bats, animals of little to know threat to the bird. Without any outright threats, the kakapo had no need to develop methods of defense against conflict.
Without certain defense mechanisms, the kakapo has remained utterly defenseless against the coming colonizers (first the Polynesians, followed by the Europeans) and the animals they brought with them. Small predatory animals, cats specifically, are largely responsible for the kakapo’s dwindling numbers. It is estimated that each year at least half of the monitored adult birds were killed by cats on the island.
And with breeding habits that leave much to be desired, it is no wonder why the kakapo population has dipped way below sustainable numbers. For kakapos, breeding occurs once every two to five years…and that is assuming the conditions are perfect. Conservationists concerned with the kakapo plight have found that while the animal generally feeds on fruits, seeds, bark, leaves, stems and roots, the birds’ favorite snack is the fruit of the rimu tree. It was also found that in times when the rimu fruit is plentiful, mating and breeding behaviors of the kakapo spike…and are depressed when the fruit is less available. This habit adds yet another strain to conservation efforts—protecting the fruit that fuels the birds.
For many, it may seem that time has not played fair with the kakapo. As the world has changed, the kakapo has yet been unable. But as humans are largely responsible for the kakapos hardships, it seems only fair that we do what we can to protect the world’s most unique parrot. By signing this petition, we can help urge the New Zealand government to take steps in protecting the critically endangered kakapo parrot.
Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strigops_habroptilus_1.jpg