Kākāpō find a new home on Pearl Island

Department of Conservation —  22/10/2020

Four male kākāpō were transported to a new home on Pearl Island, off the south of Rakiura, as a part of the kākāpō expansion project. Ngai Tahu, Predator Free Rakiura and the Kākāpō Recovery Programme all attended the recent release.

Lania Davis and Summer Thompson, patiently waiting as one of the male kākāpō adjusts to his new surroundings.
📷: Deidre Vercoe

Recently, the team undertook the task of translocating four adult male kākāpō to their new home on Pearl Island. The trip was a success after the hard work done by the Kākāpō Recovery Team researching the perfect new home.

Over the next year, more than 60 kākāpō will be trans-located between islands as part of the ongoing management of the critically endangered parrots.

New homes needed

Estelle Pera-Leask about to release one of the adult male kākāpō.
📷: Deidre Vercoe

Highly successful breeding seasons in 2016 and 2019 resulted in the kākāpō population growing by almost 70% to a total of 209 individuals today.

With so many juveniles added to the population, the current main breeding sites of Anchor Island and Whenua Hou are full to bursting, and further breeding is predicted for 2022.

However, finding new homes is challenging.

Kākāpō need large, predator-free sites with dense rimu forest to trigger breeding and sadly there aren’t many of these spaces. Add to that the fact that we’re yet to invent a fence that will keep kākāpō in, and you start to see the scale of this issue.

Over the last couple of years, the Kākāpō Recovery Team has put a lot of work into identifying potential new homes and highlighting what needs to be achieved in order to support the continued growth of the population.

Pearl Island: Great for adults, not for breeding

Lania Davis steadily opening one of the kākāpō carriers.
📷: Deidre Vercoe

Pearl Island, located within the Southland District of New Zealand, is like a miniature version of Rakiura/Stewart Island.

From the island you can see the Tin Ranges where many of the founders of the current kākāpō population were originally discovered in the 80s.

Kākāpō have lived on Pearl before; they were shifted to the island in 1998 when kiore were being eradicated from Whenua Hou.

However, rats and weka are present on the island and while they’re not a threat to adult birds, both would predate eggs and young chicks. Which means that Pearl isn’t suitable for breeding despite the suitable habitat it has.

Rodent eradication has been attempted on the island before, but Pearl’s within swimming distance of Rakiura and the rodents just reinvaded. Due to this, Pearl will not hold a breeding population of kākāpō, instead it will house young males not currently needed as a part of the breeding population.

Estelle Pera-Leask releasing an adult male kākāpō on Pearl Island.
📷: Deidre Vercoe

Return to Rakiura

Lania Davis, Summer Thompson, Estelle Pera-Leask and Deidre Vercoe with the four male kākāpō before release.
📷: Gaven Burgess

Ngāi Tahu, Predator Free Rakiura and the Kākāpō Recovery Programme all represent the combined hope that we’ll one day see kākāpō return to their old home ranges on a predator-free Rakiura.

The young birds recently released might even be among those who get to return, clearing the old track and bowl systems on the Tin Range and their booming once again heard across the landscape, it’s heartbeat returned.

For more about the Kākāpō Recovery Programme work, check out: http://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/kakapo-recovery

4 responses to Kākāpō find a new home on Pearl Island


    Sounds like a great island for Good Nature trapping.
    They might not be able to be predated, but it’s likely they will be harassed by the rats, not such a great retirement home.
    Time Rakiura/Stewart Island was made predator free once and for all, a massive lifeboar for all NZs crazy birds.

    Bonnie S Dank 23/11/2020 at 12:45 pm

    Live long and prosper, little kakapos

    Stephen Jack 27/10/2020 at 7:59 pm

    There’s a fair bit of Rimu in the Catlins and some great predator control work to help the Mohua, would be great to have Kakapo make it their home someday soon.