Kakapo facility plans revisited

    Kakapo chicks at the rearing unit in Invercargill last year.

    AN idea to incorporate a kakapo facility into the Southland Museum & Art Gallery (SMAG) is being reconsidered by the Invercargill City Council (ICC), but if developed there would be no birds on permanent display.

    ICC building assets manager Paul Horner said the council was revisiting the idea because it was consistent with the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) recommendations to increase tourism opportunities in Southland.

    ICC and Venture Southland are undertaking a feasibility study and developing a business case for an upgrade of the tuatarium and relocation of the Kakapo Recovery Programme to the north side of the museum.

    Venture Southland had contributed $15,000 towards engaging a consultant to assist with the business case.

    The Department of Conservation’s (Doc) Invercargill kakapo rearing unit was temporarily relocated from a warehouse to a vacant building on Esk St West last year, showcasing the kakapo breeding programme to the public for the first time.

    Doc kakapo/takahe operations manager Deidre Vercoe said a permanent facility at the museum was a “fantastic” concept.

    “[A kakaporium] would really enrich the experience for any tourist visiting here,” she said.

    Kakapo are among the world’s most critically endangered birds. Since the Kakapo Recovery Programme started in 1995, the population had grown from 51 to 154 adult birds.

    The next kakapo breeding season was expected to be in 2019.

    Ms Vercoe’s vision for the facility was an interactive museum exhibit complete with audio-visual displays which told the story of the kakapo.

    The facility would be a partnership between the museum and Doc, with Doc staff hand-rearing the chicks on-site during breeding seasons and museum staff managing the facility. However, there would be no kakapo permanently in residence at the facility.

    Ms Vercoe said during breeding seasons, which occurred every two to three years, the chicks would be hand-reared at the facility for three to five months but would then be released back into the wild, and staff were unable to provide the right diet to keep adult birds in captivity long-term.

    “It is not something we would want to do either.”

    The longest kakapo ambassador Sirocco had been kept in captivity was about two to three months, she said.

    SoRDS governance group chairman Tom Campbell said it supported the idea of a permanent kakapo facility at the SMAG.

    The public viewing was enormously popular last year and in terms of tourism there was a need for more tourist attractions in the region unique to Southland, he said.

    The feasibility study was expected to be completed and a report presented to the council early next month.

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