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18th of January 2018

International



Only 151 kākāpō left in NZ after native bird Jimmy dies

A post-mortem has shown Jimmy the kākāpō died from complications following an X-ray. TWITTER/ANDREW DIGBY

A post-mortem has shown Jimmy the kākāpō died from complications following an X-ray.

Only 151 kākāpō remain in New Zealand following the death of Jimmy – a beloved member of the critically endangered species. 

Department of Conservation (DOC) kākāpō expert Dr Andrew Digby said Jimmy died on December 12 as a result of complications following a veterinary procedure.

DOC suspected Jimmy had a broken wing, so flew him from Whenua Hou island to get a check-up in Invercargill. An X-ray cleared him of broken bones and Jimmy returned home.

But a post-mortem has since found the intubation tube used for inserting anaesthetic exacerbated the situation, leading to Jimmy's death.

READ MORE:* Rare kākāpō released at Little Barrier Island* Saving the kākāpō on Codfish Island* Seven things you probably didn't know about the kākāpō​​

"It's not completely uncommon, but it's one of the risks with anaesthetic," Digby said. "This is normally a very low risk procedure, so we decided it was worth it in this case."

Kākāpō expert Dr Andrew Digby says Jimmy's death is "particularly devastating" because he hadn't produced offspring. TWITTER/ANDREW DIGBY

Kākāpō expert Dr Andrew Digby says Jimmy's death is "particularly devastating" because he hadn't produced offspring.

Jimmy was one of the 63 original birds on Whenua Hou island – flown there from Stewart Island in 1983 to help grow the population.

Only 32 of the founder birds are left, and Digby said Jimmy was one of the older ones. 

Kākāpō expert Dr Andrew Digby: "Jimmy was one of my favourite kakapo. We’ll learn from this." TWITTER/ANDREW DIGBY

Kākāpō expert Dr Andrew Digby: "Jimmy was one of my favourite kakapo. We’ll learn from this."

"Unfortunately, he had never produced offspring. He had mated before but never produced chicks.

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"It's a real shame he hasn't been able to pass on his genetic material."

It was a "double-whammy loss" for the kākāpō population, Digby said. 

"We've lost Jimmy, a kākāpō we loved, and we've lost the opportunity for more genetic diversity." 

Digby said Jimmy was one of his favourite kākāpō. 

"I knew him well. He wasn't particularly sociable. He was one of the more wild birds, but was quite slow because of his arthritis.

"But he had a pretty good nature. They all have quite different personalities, and Jimmy was a good one."

DOC sometimes struggled with deciding whether or not to get medical treatment for kākāpō or leave them in the wild, Digby said. 

"It is tricky for us. We try to keep them as wild as possible and only remove them from the wild if there's a good reason to do so."

Digby expected the kākāpō population would decrease further before it increased.

"We're in a period where we won't have any significant breeding until early 2019. Kākāpō only breed every two to three years."

The kākāpō population did increase from 125 to 157 in 2016, however.

"We had 32 chicks produced last breeding season, which was massive. Every seven years we get a big breeding event, and 2019 could be one as well."

KEY KĀKĀPŌ FACTS:

- The bird freezes when disturbed instead of more useful forms of defence. This contributes to the decline in kākāpō population. 

via GIPHY

- It can live for decades, and it's believed to have the longest life expectancy of all bird species. Kākāpō have been known to live up to 90 years, almost the same age as Queen Elizabeth II. 

- It's the world's heaviest parrot and can weight up to 4 kilograms when fully mature.

 - Stuff

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