Kakapo dies just before release
A sick kakapo being cared for at Auckland Zoo died last Wednesday, the day he was due to return to the wild.
Zoo vets are devastated by the death, which came after two months of treatment for lead poisoning.
An autopsy confirmed Lee died from a small tear in his digestive system which caused severe inflammation.
“While working to repair this injury, Lee’s heart stopped twice, but we managed to resuscitate him,” says senior vet Richard Jakob-Hoff. “However, he went into cardiac arrest again at the end of the procedure, and this time we were unable to bring him back.
“The shock to his system was too great.”
Experts say Lee could have been up to 100 years old.
His death leaves only 90 surviving kakapo in the world.
Lee was brought to the zoo’s New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine after losing a significant amount of weight on Anchor Island in Fiordland.
He had recently been moved from Codfish Island, just off Stewart Island, where he was one of the founding male kakapo transferred to the 1980s.
Lee had been tube-fed twice a day to get his weight back up, and was ready to be returned to the wild.
Vets say up until Monday evening he appeared in good shape and was behaving normally.
Other birds on the Codfish and Anchor islands, the only two kakapo populations in the world, appear in good health.
Devastating loss: Veterinary nurse Melanie Freedman feeding Lee with vet John Potter. Lee died following an operation on Wednesday.