Target: Rob Forlong, Chief Executive of New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority
Goal: Help the critically endangered kakapo parrot by spreading the word about the bird’s plight and how the public can help the animal reach a sustainable population.
There is nothing quite usual about the kakapo parrot. Practically everything about the kakapo sets it apart from the parrots the majority of us have become familiar with. Weighing approximately 9 pounds, the kakapo is the heaviest parrot in the world. What is more, the kakapo is a flightless bird and can live to be 90 years old. And unlike many animals, the kakapo parrot breeds once every couple of years—a habit that is perhaps lending itself to the animal’s status as critically endangered.
At its last count in 2009, the kakapo population was estimated to be around 124 in the world with a declining trend, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the animal on its Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered.” Its range, which used to encompass the vast majority of the North and South islands of New Zealand (along with Stewart Island/Rakiura), has now been largely restricted to only a tiny fraction of Stewart Island/Rakiura.
Human interference has played a large role in the decrease of the kakapo population. As humans were introduced into the kakapo range, they brought along with them animals like cats which were reported to have killed off almost half of the population of monitored adult kakapos on Stewart Island. Additionally, conservationists have found that while the kakapo generally feed off of fruits, seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, etc. their preferred snack is the fruit from the rimu tree. During times when the rimu fruit is exceptionally abundant, the kakapo’s reproductive habits spike and chances of fertility are much higher.
With so much setting the kakapo apart from other birds like it, it is no wonder why groups like Kakapo Recovery are working constantly to make sure populations of the animal are able to flourish and reach sustainable numbers. Yet government agencies can still help by educating the public about the kakapo and the issues they face. In the end, what is at stake is the survival of one of the world’s most unique birds.
Dear Mr. Forlong,
The kakapo parrot is unlike any other parrot (or bird, for that matter) on the planet. With its unique build and habits, the bird is as unique as it is interesting. Yet, with a steadily declining population the animal is at greater risk of sinking away into the depths of extinction.
It is with this in mind that I, the undersigned, am writing to you. With only around 120 kakapo parrots left in the wild, roaming a fraction of its traditional range, conservation efforts must be intensified and educating the public is a great way to start.
Already considered a “critically endangered” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, time is ticking and must not be wasted.
[Your name will go here]