It might not be worth trying to save the kakapo, the critically endangered native bird that has been on the brink of extinction for decades, an Australian scientist says.
Instead, resources should go into saving species that have more chance of recovering and surviving in the evolving environment.
“It’s a wonderfully weird creature and it’s a shame that we will probably lose it regardless of any interventions. Harsh, but somebody’s got to say it,” said Cory Bradshaw, of the University of Adelaide’s director of ecological modelling.
Using a mathematical formula, Professor Bradshaw and colleagues from Adelaide and James Cook University, in northern Queensland, created a new index called Safe (Species’ Ability to Forestall Extinction), which ranks the probability of animals becoming extinct based on population.
The index goes a step further than the Red List of Threatened Species, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which ranks animals and plants in categories from safe to critically endangered.
“It really comes down to accounting, are we deliberately or inadvertently losing hundreds if not thousands of species by putting money into species that are a lost cause? That doesn’t mean we go out and knock every one on its head though,” Professor Bradshaw said.
Other endangered animals that could be left to die off because of unsustainable population levels, according to the index, include Australian’s hairy-nosed wombat and the Javan rhinoceros.
The Conservation Department said it would look at the merits of the index but said it would continue to support the Kakapo Recovery Programme.
“DOC is very proud of the work that’s been done to save the kakapo and we’ve no intention of letting them go,” spokesman Chris Pitt said.
ERRRRRR, YEA RIGHT ……
DOC has managed to breed two kakapo using artificial insemination in what’s being hailed as a world first and a boost for critically-endangered birds everywhere.
Kakapo are notoriously slow to reproduce, and DOC hopes the breakthrough will now ensure the birds’ survival.
There are only 124 kakapo in existence, but with the help of artificial insemination, or AI, they may just be able to claw their way back from the brink of extinction.
“It’s just a fantastic tool for us to protect the future population of kakapo against further inbreeding, and also hopefully improve fertility rates,” says DOC’s Deirdre Vercoe.
“It’s a real breakthrough, a scientific breakthrough to achieve AI in a wild bird like this,” says Forest & Bird’s Chris Todd.
With more than 50 percent of kakapo eggs infertile, associate professor Ian Jameison says AI is a revolutionary tool in the fight for their survival.
07 October 2009
This week’s screening of the BBC’s “Last Chance to See” programme featuring New Zealand’s own conservation ambassador Sirocco the kākāpō, has catapulted kākāpō recovery into the international spotlight.
Department of Conservation staff have been amazed by the response that viewers of the “Last Chance to See” programme, starring Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine, has evoked from the British public.
“His Facebook page alone jumped from 600 friends to over 2000 friends in the 48 hours following the broadcast of the kākāpō episode of “Last Chance to See”,” said Sirocco’s media advisor Nic Vallance from the Department of Conservation.
“And the Youtube clip of him getting ‘up close and personal’ with presenter Mark Cawardine has resulted in well over half a million hits.”
The show “Last Chance to See” is a remake of the series that the late Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine recorded for radio and published a book on in 1990.
Many of the comments posted on Sirocco’s rapidly growing Facebook page send words of support and encouragement to kākāpō recovery as well as many offers of donations to continue to increase the survival of the kākāpō.
“The international interest in kākāpō is just fantastic,” said Vallance.
4 December 2008
Kakapo gets boost from long-running partnership
The long-running fight to save the kakapo has received a welcome boost with the Department of Conservation, Rio Tinto Alcan NZ and Forest & Bird agreeing to extend their successful kakapo recovery partnership for a further two year term.
The agreement, first signed in 1990, helps support the Kakapo Recovery Programme and is one of the department’s longest running conservation partnerships.
The two-decade strong agreement has already injected over $3 million towards breeding programmes and predator-proof sanctuaries for the critically endangered parrot.
The kakapo remains one of New Zealand’s most vulnerable birds but the current population of just over 90 is almost double the number of birds alive when the agreement was first signed.
Minister of Conservation, Tim Groser, says the partnership shows what can be achieved when the community and private businesses throw their support behind conservation goals.
“I want to thank Rio Tinto Alcan NZ and Forest & Bird for the vision they have both shown in working with the department throughout this long-running relationship.”
“The fate of birds like the kakapo is a litmus test for the health of the forests, rivers and landscapes that underpin our tourism and business sectors.’
“Everybody – private businesses, community organisations and the public sector – has a stake in making sure we get conservation right and it is very satisfying to see this partnership extended for a further two years.”
oil painting of South island Tomtit by Peter Jean Caley
Stewart Island interests are considering an ambitious $35 million proposal to eradicate rats, wild cats and possums from the island.
The proposal has initial support from parts of the community but is likely to be vehemently opposed by deer hunters. It includes a predator fence around the settlement of Oban and plans for widespread aerial poison drops.
Described as New Zealand’s biggest conservation project, it aims to “make Stewart Island the Galapagos of the South”.
Copies of the proposal have been given to community groups and key “stakeholders” before a public meeting on April 3.
The “draft feasibility study” has been prepared by the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust, with support from the Department of Conservation and the Tindall Foundation.
Proposed “border control” measures could include teams of rodent-checking dogs monitoring departures from Bluff and Invercargill and arrivals on the island.
It is hoped bird species such as kakapo, saddleback, mohua, kokako and teal may eventually be reintroduced to Stewart Island.