Kakapo Rescue


BIG BIRD: The kakapo is the world’s heaviest parrot, sometimes weighing as much as a small dog.

Meet the kakapo (kuh-KAH-poh)—an unusual member of the parrot family. The flightless bird lives only in New Zealand and is the world’s largest parrot. After decades of being hunted and having its habitat destroyed, the kakapo has become endangered. Recently, a new threat emerged. In 2019, kakapo began dying from lung infections caused by the fungal disease aspergillosis.

“It was scary,” says Andrew Digby, an ecologist at the New Zealand Department of Conservation. He and other scientists isolated parrots that shared nests with sick birds. They sent them to veterinarians who took scans of the birds’ lungs to see if they’d been infected. Sick kakapo were treated with medicine to fight the fungus.

The rescue efforts paid off. Twelve kakapo recovered from infection, and the team prevented many more from becoming sick. Today, the 210 kakapo that remain are thriving. Digby is thrilled: “There’s nothing like them on Earth,” he says.