We kākāpō are a simple bunch – feed us up and we’ll get a bit frisky, but take away the food and we just won’t be in the mood. What that means in reality is we rely heavily on there being a good supply of rimu fruit down on Codfish and Anchor Islands, and talking to the DOC rangers down there suggests it’s not going well.
Here’s the deal (they explained it to me simply as maths isn’t a kākāpō’s strong point). Around 11-12% of the rimu fruit on the trees needs to ripen enough for us to eat it. Back in October last year the level was around 21% on Codfish, so it was looking good. But now, it’s gone pear (or rimu) shaped, and it’s down to about 9%. That means there’ll be some nests, but not the 20 we were hoping for. The rangers are now hoping for around five.
On Anchor Island it’s down to 6% on most of the trees. There might be enough on a couple of trees to prompt a couple of nests – but hopes for the first of our kind to be born in Fiordland in decades are fading.
It does make you think – go back to pre-human times in NZ, and we were one of the most common birds here (when I say common, I mean in terms of numbers…we were always pretty superior…). So imagine how much rimu fruit there must have been to keep us going. But now, vast amounts of those trees have gone, mainly because of logging and possums.
So it’s a bit sad, but when it comes to breeding, us kākāpō don’t make it easy. Last year wasn’t good but 2009 was a great one. So we’re doing okay…and who knows, keep those wings crossed for some more kākāpō action this season!
If you want to keep track of which kakapo are mating and who has laid eggs this season check out the nesting table.
PS I’ve been asked how my dear friend Whiskas got his name. Well, when you’re a kākāpō – or a DOC ranger working with us – you’ve got to have a sense of humour. He was called Whiskas because if they’d left him on Stewart Island, he would have been cat food… Skraaark!