NZ's endangered parrots reach milestone

A concerted scientific effort to rescue New Zealand's kakapo has increased the population to 200.
A concerted scientific effort to rescue New Zealand's kakapo has increased the population to 200.

The breeding programme for New Zealand's kakapo parrot has reached a milestone with the official population reaching 200 for the first time in more than seven decades.

"The population has reached 200 today, with the latest chick becoming a juvenile - when we add birds to the official tally," Andrew Digby, from New Zealand's Department of Conservation tweeted on Sunday.

Once labelled "the world's largest, fattest, least able-to-fly parrot," by British zoologist Mark Carwardine, the birds have come dangerously close to extinction.

In the 1990s, there remained only approximately 50 of the ground-dwelling, nocturnal birds, which have never learned to defend themselves against introduced predators.

A team of more than 100 scientists, rangers and volunteers worked hard to make this year the biggest breeding season on record.

Deidre Vercoe of the Kakapo Recovery Team told Radio New Zealand on Monday the breeding programme still has a lot of work to do.

"We still have major issues around genetic diversity, obviously with such a small population there isn't much genetic diversity so it's really important for us to maintain as much as we have, and we had some wins with that this year with the success of the artificial insemination programme," Vercoe said.

Australian Associated Press