February 26, 2024

Crucial New Insights Into Survival of the Critically Endangered Kākāpō Parrot

Kakapo Sirocco among the renga lillies. Maud Island. Credit: Chris Birmingham, 2012/New Zealand Department of Conservation
A brand-new study published in PeerJ Life & & Environment has supplied important insights into the elements that affect the fertility of the critically endangered kakapo, a flightless parrot types belonging to New Zealand. The outcomes of the study have essential implications for conservation management efforts focused on enhancing the sluggish population development of this types, and highlights the need for a well balanced method to preservation management, considering both the short-term advantages and prospective long-lasting negative effects of hand-rearing and other management strategies.
The findings have instant applications in kakapo conservation management:

Two-month-old kakapo chick. Credit: Dianne Mason, 2009/New Zealand Department of Conservation
Preservation methods for wild-living threatened species such as the kakapo count on improving survival and efficiency to increase population development. Methods such as habitat restoration and predator control are utilized to enhance survival, but it is frequently problems with reproductive output that many limitation recovery. Hand-rearing, in which animals are raised in captivity by human beings, is typically utilized in threatened types preservation programs, mostly to increase productivity by enhancing survival throughout development to maturity.
The study utilized Bayesian combined models to analyze the relationship between hand-rearing, other environmental elements, and clutch fertility in the kakapo
The results study recommends that some aspects of preservation management have unintentionally impacted kakapo efficiency by minimizing clutch fertility. The management intervention of hand-rearing, while certainly increasing chick survival, has reduced clutch fertility. The sex distinction in this impact shows that hand-rearing impacts copulation behavior in males more than women, in accordance with imprinting habits discovered in hand-reared male but not female kakapo.
The research likewise discovered that female copulation behavior– consisting of polyandry and duplicated copulations– is likely driven by high levels of sperm competition in kakapo to improve the possibility of fertilization.
The findings of this research study show the crucial significance of collecting comprehensive longitudinal information, and examining similar effects of hand-rearing and sex ratios in other threatened bird species.
About the kakapo.
As much as 64 cm (25 in) in length, these flightless birds have actually carefully blotched yellow-green plumage, an unique facial disc, owl-style forward-facing eyes with surrounding discs of specially-textured feathers, a big grey beak, brief legs, big blue feet, and fairly short wings and tail: a mix of qualities making it distinct among parrots. It is the worlds only flightless parrot, the worlds heaviest parrot, and also is nocturnal, herbivorous, visibly sexually dimorphic in body size, has a low basal metabolic rate, and does not have male parental care. It is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system. It is also potentially among the worlds longest-living birds, with a reported life-span of as much as 100 years.
The kakapo is critically-endangered; the total known adult population is 249 living individuals, all of which are named and tagged, restricted to 4 small islands off the coast of New Zealand that have been cleared of predators.
The name kakapo is Maori, and translates as night parrot.
Reference: “Hidden effects of conservation management on fertility of the seriously endangered kakapo” by Digby A, Eason D, Catalina A, Lierz M, Galla S, Urban L, Le Lec MF, Guhlin J, Steeves TE, Dearden PK, Joustra T, Lees C, Davis T, Vercoe D and Kakapo Recovery Team, 3 February 2023, PeerJ.DOI: 10.7717/ peerj.14675.

Kakapo Sirocco among the renga lillies. Conservation techniques for wild-living threatened species such as the kakapo rely on improving survival and performance to increase population growth. Hand-rearing, in which animals are raised in captivity by humans, is typically utilized in threatened types preservation programs, mainly to increase efficiency by improving survival throughout development to maturity.
The outcomes research study suggests that some aspects of preservation management have inadvertently impacted kakapo productivity by reducing clutch fertility. The sex distinction in this impact suggests that hand-rearing affects copulation habits in males more than women, in accordance with imprinting habits discovered in hand-reared male however not female kakapo.

Low productivity limitations population recovery of the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), with infrequent breeding, high infertility and low hatching success hindering preservation efforts. Kakapo breeding occurs irregularly, integrated with the mass-fruiting (masting) of particular tree species, particularly the rimu tree (Dacrydium cupressinum), which only happens every 2-4 years.

Hand-rearing ought to be restricted as much as possible for males; a turnaround from previous methods in which keeping female chicks in nests was prioritized.
Population densities need to be made the most of so that there suffice males at leks to guarantee appropriate mate choice for women, however such that the female: male sex ratio is kept as high as the environment can support.
Artificial insemination needs to likewise be continued, to ensure adequate sperm competitors and increase founder representation.