Chick’s arrival makes 202 kakapo

The first kakapo chick of the season, Pearl-A-1-2022, has hatched on Whenua Hou, west of Stewart Island. Photo: Jake Osborne

THE first kakapo chick of the year has arrived.

Nineteen-year-old Pearl produced the chick, called Pearl-A-1-2022, which was found on Whenua Hou last week.

The chick was observed in the nest at 2am last Tuesday looking fluffy enough for Department of Conservation staff to conclude it was a January chick.

The chick’s name comes from the naming convention for the species — mother’s name, egg number and year.

Although Pearl-A-1-2022 is the first of Pearl’s 2022 clutch, she also had two other eggs, due to hatch over the next few days, Doc said.

One was in her nest, while the other had been moved to an incubator on Anchor Island to give it the best chance of survival.

It would be buddied up with a chick of a similar age and reared by a foster mum.

Baby Pearl-A-1-2022 received a health check at 5am on Wednesday and weighed 37g. The chick appeared to be in good health.

The new arrival brings the number of kakapo in existence to 202. The population stood at 51 in 1995 so has fought back well.

Kakapo only breed every two to three years so each breeding season is critical to the future of the species.

Doc kakapo operations manager Deidre Vercoe said hatching time could be nerve-racking for staff but also wonderful.

‘‘It’s a huge reward for hardworking team members to know there is growing hope for kakapo with every healthy chick that hatches,’’ she said.

‘‘The kakapo team of 2022 has a very unique challenge. That is, how to manage a significant and infrequent breeding event for a critically endangered species in the middle of a pandemic.

‘‘As the kakapo population grows, we have been reducing the intensity of breeding management. The pandemic could push the reduction of this hands-on work further.

‘‘Insights gained from this unique situation will provide valuable information to guide future
breeding management approaches.’’

A check on eggs around other areas had shown at least 25 eggs were fertile.