DNA project to help save kakapo gets corporate backing

Science and corporate backing have combined in a new effort to save the endangered, flightless kakapo.

With only 158 of the parrots left, a small group of people are doing their best to keep them alive. Source: Seven Sharp

Kakapo expert Andrew Digby told Seven Sharp 35 chicks have been born this year in the most successful season since the breeding programme began 26 years ago.

Twelve of those chicks had to be hand-reared in Invercargill and now that they're three months old, they're being released on pest-free Anchor Island in Dusky Sound. 

It was thought the kakapo were extinct, but then their rediscovery in the 1970s and a management programme has meant there are now 123 adults, mostly thanks to the Conservation Department's kakapo recovery programme to remove them from predators.

Now, using the latest technology, DNA has been collected from every adult Kakapo, the first time an entire population has been genome sequenced.

"It will help us understand more about disease, which individuals are more susceptible to disease. It'll help us understand more about fertility as well," Mr Digby said.

The work doesn't come cheap and a partnership has been announced between DOC and Meridian Energy, which will provide corporate backing for the genome sequencing to keep the kakapo from becoming extinct.