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Endangered New Zealand kākāpō parrot sees population boost

The population of New Zealand’s treasured kākāpō has now reached 252, the highest number of the endangered birds seen in almost 50 years, the country’s Department of Conservation announced Tuesday.

Kākāpō are flightless nocturnal parrots that are unique to New Zealand and a taonga (or treasure) for Ngāi Tahu, the Māori people of the southern islands, the Department of Conservation noted in a news release. The bird is one of the most distinctive roaming the Earth – with an owl-like face, pot belly and life span that can reach 90 years. But the kākāpō has been critically endangered for decades.

The 2022 breeding season brought 55 new chicks, increasing the kākāpō population by almost 28% since last year, when there was a total of 192 birds. To put that number into perspective, there was once only about 50 kākāpō left – when the bird’s population reached an all-time low in the 1990s.

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“There is an all-hands-on-deck approach to saving kākāpō,” New Zealand conservation minister Poto Williams said in a statement. “This has been the second-biggest breeding season, leading to the highest number of birds since the 1970s, but we can’t take our eye off the ball.”

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