Kakapo chick go­ing south af­ter big storm

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS ETHERIDGE

A kakapo chick who fought through a cy­clone and pneu­mo­nia to stay alive has flown to In­ver­cargill to make new friends.

Heather One weighed just 43 grams when she was brought to Auck­land Zoo al­most two months ago.

The lit­tle chick should have weighed about 101 grams, the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s Leigh Joyce says.

Heather One had caught pneu­mo­nia and strug­gled to gain weight af­ter Cy­clone Lusi’s high winds hit Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land in March.

‘‘I had a cam­era in­side the nest and you can ac­tu­ally see the whole bur­row dis­tort­ing,’’ the kakapo ranger says.

‘‘You can see the roots mov­ing, you can see the cam­era mov­ing so I sus­pect be­cause she was on the ridge­line, al­though Cy­clone Lusi didn’t come to much in Auck­land, we had quite high winds and the whole tree was sway­ing.’’

Mother Heather was feed­ing her chicks hourly but Joyce had to in­ter­vene.

The 10-day-old chick had trou­ble breath­ing and her life was in dan­ger.

DOC rangers spent the night car­ry­ing Heather One down from the nest and took her to Auck­land.

The zoo’s con­ser­va­tion sci­ence and re­search man­ager Richard Jakob-Hoff says the kakapo was put in an in­cu­ba­tor and fed par­rotrear­ing mix ev­ery two hours.

‘‘When she came in she was actu- ally very, very sick. We re­ally weren’t sure she was go­ing to sur­vive and so she had to have re­ally in­ten­sive treat­ment for quite a while.

‘‘It prob­a­bly took 10 days to a fort­night be­fore she re­ally started to look well.’’

She was on a neb­u­liser to get med­i­ca­tion straight to her lungs, as well as oral an­tibi­otics and an­ti­fun­gal drugs.

Af­ter a feed, staff touch the sides of her beak with their fin­gers to make her ‘‘beg’’.

This sim­u­lates her mother feed­ing her and helps the food set­tle.

Heather One’s had some di­ar­rhoea which de­layed her trip. But the in­quis­i­tive chick was feel­ing much bet­ter when the Cen­tral Leader vis­ited on Mon­day.

Jakob-Hoff ad­mits he’s got a soft spot for the wee par­rot.

‘‘She’s so cute. I mean we’re not re­ally sup­posed to get at­tached to them but I’ll tell you what, it’s im­pos­si­ble. She’s so sweet.

‘‘They’re re­ally in­tel­li­gent. You can see that, the way she looks at you, you can see it in her eyes.’’

Heather One has now been flown to In­ver­cargill to meet two other kakapo.

Photo: JESS ETHERIDGE

Lit­tle fighter: Heather One chows down on a car­rot dur­ing one of her five daily feeds at Auck­land Zoo.

Go to cen­tral­leader.co.nz and click Lat­est Edi­tion to watch Auck­land Zoo staff feed Heather One.

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