Friday, 22 June 2012

New Zealand's 'night parrot' brought back from the brink


AUCKLAND, June 21, 2012 (AFP) - Flightless, slow-moving and at times more sexually attracted to humans than their own species, it's small wonder New Zealand's kakapo parrot is on the verge of extinction.
But a mammoth conservation effort stretching back decades is offering hope for one of the world's rarest birds, lifting its numbers from about 50 in 1990 to 126 this year.
The plump, green kakapo -- the name means "night parrot" in Maori -- was once one of the most common birds in New Zealand, which had few land predators before European settlement in the early Nineteenth Century.
"There was a report from an early explorer, Charles Douglas, who said they were so populous you could shake them out of trees like apples," said Deirdre Vercoe Scott, head of the Department of Conservation's kakapo recovery programme.
"He said he'd once seen six kakapo shaken from a single tutu bush."
Vercoe Scott said habitat destruction by humans and the introduction of pests such as stoats and predatory cats and dogs, sowed the seeds of the kakapos' decline.
The flightless nocturnal birds, while essentially ground dwelling, are strong climbers but freeze when confronted by a threat, making them easy pickings for predators.
The males also attract mates by emitting a deep booming sound from thoracic air sacs, turning them into conspicuous targets for hunters in the night forest.

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