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Endangered Species: The Owl Parrot

written by: Rafael•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/30/2009

By the 50s the Owl parrot (also known as the giant green parrot or the Kakapo) was practically a lost species. Today, there are 100 surviving adults thanks to an enormous conservation program set up by the Zealand. Learn about this critically endangered species and its effort to preserve it.

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    Know the Owl Parrot?

    The Owl parrot (Strigops habroptilis), also known as the giant green parrot or the Kakapo is the biggest parrot surviving on earth. Unfortunately, is one of the biological species that has virtually disappeared. In fact, according to the Kakapo Recovery Programme there are only 100 surviving Owl parrots on Earth today (as of March 2009).

    Strigops habroptilis was first discovered by John Gray, in 1845. The Owl giant green parrot is, as its name implies, a large bird, it roams at night. It has a green-colored body. The bird is endemic (only found) to New Zealand. According to the The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Owl parrot males may grow up to 60 cm (24 in) long and may weigh 2 to 4 kilograms (4.5–9 lb). This bird cannot fly since it has short wings and lacks the keel bone (needed to anchor the flight muscles).

    Strigops habroptilus available free at wikipedia Owl parrots evolved from an ancestor when the island of New Zealand broke off from Gondwana. In this new island and in pre-human times the Owl parrot had no natural predators and survived successfully. Evolution forced this bird to lose its ability to fly in the absences of natural predator. However upon human colonization of New Zealand and with introduction of cats, rats, and dogs on the island the bird has been systematically predated. Also, the destruction of their natural environment caused by humans has forced the Owl parrot into areas where life is harder than before. The species became extinct on the mainland and only survive on managed offshore islands.

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    The Kakapo Recovery Programme

    In 1989, Kakapo Recovery Group was created in an effort to preserve the Owl parrot. A Kakapo Recovery Plan was developed which seems to be working out. According to Lloyd and Powlesland (1994), 65 Kakapo (43 males, 22 females) were successfully transferred onto the four islands where predators were eradicated. A key component of the conservation program is feeding and breeding. There seems to be an association between the food they eat and the breeding frequency (which naturally is once every 2 to 5 years) so great deal of effort has been put on finding the ideal diet to increase breeding frequency. According to the Kakapo Recovery Programme their plan is "To restore the mauri (life-force) of kakapo by having at least 150 adult females." They are on their way with 100 adults up to this day, according to the latest press release

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    B. D. Lloyd and R. G. Powlesland (1994). "The decline of kakapo Strigops habroptilus and attempts at conservation by translocation". Biological Conservation 69 (1): 75–85

    Kakapo Recovery Programme