Experts hopeful deadly kākāpō disease has reached its peak

It's hoped the deadly respiratory disease that's killing kākāpō might have reached its peak.

The deadly infection, aspergillosis, has killed seven of our native parrots since April.

Now healthy birds are being found among those suspected of being sick, so some can return home to Whenua Hou, Codfish Island.

Among five birds heading back today was Alice and her daughter, called Alice2a.

"Alice 2a was Alice's second egg in the first clutch," said James Chatterton, Auckland Zoo's vet manager.

Cameras for 1 NEWS was there as vet nurse Mikayle Wilson removed Alice's IV drip, ready for her trip down south.

"It's always nice seeing an IV come out", she said. "She's been cleared on CT, she's been cleared on bloods, and now she gets to return to the island."

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Seven kākāpo have died since April - the most recent was this week. Source: 1 NEWS

Fifteen kākāpō have now been returned to their home, after being found clear of the illness.

"It's a real relief that we've kind of reached the extent of where this disease is having an affect," said kākāpō science advisor Andrew Digby.

"Initially, when we'd gone through the first 16 or 18 and they all had the disease and all had problems, we were worried it was the whole island at risk", said Mr Chatterton.

The outbreak of aspergillosis has been devastating after the most successful breeding season on record for the native parrot.

"We've got 142 adults and 72 chicks, and we've got 16 definitely affected and there's potentially another 1-2 dozen at risk", said Mr Digby.

"Those birds are in for months and months of treatment", he said.

"Aspergillosis is usually fatal, by the time you diagnose it," added Mr Chatterton.

Staff from DOC, Auckland Zoo, Dunedin's The Wildlife Hospital and Massey University's Wildbase are doing their best to help those birds that are affected.

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

Mr Chatterton says those at Auckland Zoo have been there for over a month and are stable, but there's a long road ahead.

Next week they'll start CT scans again, to see if there's been any improvements.

The cause of the outbreak still hasn't been confirmed, but it's suspected it's to do with warm temperatures.

"Maybe that weather created, in some nests, a bloom of fungus or mould, I guess like a mouldy house," Mr Chatterton suggested.

On top of that, some females have nested twice, which is unusual.

"So far we've not yet found an adult male with the disease and perhaps that's because they don't hang out in nests for two months, he said.

Vets at Auckland Zoo are busy completing tests to diagnose kākāpō. They carried out an endoscopy on a chick called Awarua 4A yesterday, and now are awaiting results.

They're hopeful she'll be added to the list of those who are clear, and will be able to go home on Friday.

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The respiratory disease that’s killing the endangered New Zealand birds might have reached its peak. Source: 1 NEWS