Overseas help for endangered parrot

Monday, February 13 2006 @ 10:35 AM UTC

Contributed by: roelantjonker

Feb 12, 2006

New Zealand conservationists are flying in help from overseas in an effort to save the endangered Kakapo.

The birds have become increasingly infertile but it is hoped a foreign expert can inject new life into the breeding programme.

Endangered Birds Specialist Dr Juan Blanco has flown half way across the world to help solve the fertility problems of its only flightless parrot.

Blanco's expertise is as rare as the birds he works with. The artificial insemination of endangered birds.

"The case of the Kakapo is probably the most special in the world because there are so little, just a few numbers," says Blanco.

There are 86 Kakapo but they are becoming increasingly inbred.

Blanco's task to collect sperm from the original founders of the population and develop ways of preserving it long and short term.

"If not it would be difficult to do an A.I. - Artificial insemination - if the sperm pass away in just a few minutes," says Blanco.

There is a certain urgency to this - the scientists need to collect the sperm of the older birds before they die. No one knows how long Kakapo live or how old the breeding ones are.

"It is very important that we preserve the genetic contribution of these founding birds for posterity basically for the future. That way we are conserving more than just individual Kakapo, we are actually conserving the population's gene pool," says National Kakapo Team Scientist Ron Moorhouse.

There is a lot resting on the arrival of the scientist who has never even met a Kakapo before.

The Department of Conservation had hoped that a search it is doing in Fiordland would find fresh breeding stock to increase the genetic pool. But with only a few days for the month-long search to go it seems Blacno may now carry the fertility hopes of the Kakapo.