The population of kakapo parrots in New Zealand has grown spectacularly in the past year, reaching more than 250 individuals. The species is endangered.

The population of New Zealand’s kakapo, a flightless and endangered parrot, has increased by 25% in the past year to 252 birds, following a good breeding season and success with artificial insemination , the department of conservation of species announced on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Kakapo parrots have been nearly exterminated by introduced predators such as rats because the birds cannot fly. The problem was compounded by inbreeding, very low fertility (only 50% of eggs are fertilized) and the fact that the birds breed only once every two or three years when certain trees bear fruit.

An endangered species has seen a spectacular increase in the number of individuals

The population of the kakapo, which is the heaviest parrot in the world, has now reached its highest number since the 1970s.

“There were only 86 kakapo when I started working as a kakapo ranger in 2002. That number was frightening. To have a breeding season with 55 chicks is a very big step,” said Deidre Vercoe, operations manager for the kakapo recovery program.

How did this achievement come about?

The program was established in 1995. It is a collaboration between New Zealand’s conservation department and the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe and uses volunteers to help with activities such as monitoring nests to keep them out of trouble. Some birds were rescued after getting stuck in the mud or between trees.

Vercoe said in an email that much of the success this season was due to the amount of fruit from the rimu trees. This season’s artificial insemination success was also key. Eight surviving pups were born from artificial insemination, compared to just five between 2009 and 2019.

“The use of artificial insemination has meant that some males, who have not yet fathered offspring naturally, are still represented in the future gene pool. Artificial insemination can also help to increase the fertility of the eggs laid,” said Vercoe.

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