Day: March 11, 2014

Saving a crushed egg with tape and glue

 

Why you should care about the kakapoConservationists in New Zealand are celebrating after an extremely rare kakapo chick hatched from a cracked egg held together by nothing more than tape and glue. The bird joins a global kakapo population of just 125 birds – but what makes these animals so unique and why are they worth saving?

To describe a kakapo as concisely as possible you’d say that they’re a species of flightless parrot: one that is ground-dwelling, nocturnal and thoroughly rotund.

However, this barely even scrapes the surface of the kakapo’s strangeness – a quality that is in no small way thanks to the fact they developed in the isolated environment of the islands of New Zealand.

This evolutionary upbringing accounts for some the bird’s odder physical characteristics, with the abundance of food and an absence of ground-based predators encouraging the kakapo (the name translates as ‘night owl’) to sacrifice the power of flight in favour of becoming more “thermodynamically efficient” – that is to say, they piled on the pounds and at 2kg to 4kg are the heaviest parrot around.

However, kakapos compensate for their inability to fly with superb camouflage and a tendency to freeze completely when startled.

These two traits combine to form a pretty good defence against the unwanted attention of eagles (who find their prey mostly by movement) but they unfortunately made the bird easy pickings for the cats and rats introduced by European settlers.

These predators decimated kakapo populations and it’s now the responsibility of the New Zealand government’s Kakapo Recovery Plan to save the species, swooping in wherever they find the birds and reloacting them to ‘safe’ islands, where they provide feeding stations for the birds and even hand-raise chicks.

This will likely be what will happen to the ‘miraculous’ Lisa One, the offspring of Lisa (there are so few kakapos that individuals are allknown by name), a kakapo mother that inadvertently crushed her own egg.And despite the incredibly frail looking bundle of fluff that successfully hatched from Lisa’s egg, it’s likely that this chick will outlive most people reading this article: life expectancy for kakapos is an astounding 95 and individuals can live up to 120, making them possibly the longest-lived bird in the world.’ (The Independent).