After a strong start to 2019 for the Critically Endangered Kakapo, a debilitating fungus has dealt a major blow to its small population.
A healthy crop of berries was available this year on the species' favoured Rimu trees, with the breeding season producing a record 86 chicks, boosting the total population by some 50 per cent.
However, 30 Kakapos are now in hospital on the New Zealand mainland, with some fighting for their lives. Ten of the parrots have been confirmed as having the severe infection aspergillosis, caused by the fungus Aspergillus. This has already killed six individuals, while others are considered to be at high risk and are being tested for the fungus.
Deidre Vercoe, manager of the New Zealand Department of Conservation's Kakapo Recovery Team, explained: "It's a significant chunk of the population really, and it's the first time in living memory that number of birds has been on mainland New Zealand, away from their offshore islands.
"It's been quite hard with the birds that you know. Like when [a Kakapo named] Hoki died it was really difficult. She was 27 years old and she was known by so many people who worked with the programme. She was a staunch bird, she demanded your respect and everyone loved her. She was a real character."