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New Life for the Kakapo

Location

Codfish Island
An Artistic Quest to Save a Species from the Brink

Quick Facts

Artist: 
Pat Latas
Purpose: 
The primary goal of the expedition is to illustrate and support the efforts of the Kakapo Recovery Team - a conservation organization whose mission it is to save the Kakapo- a flightless species of parrot that lives in burrows in New Zealand.
Time/Location: 
Early 2014, New Zealand
Departure Date: 
3 years 27 weeks ago

In early April 2014, Pat Latas travels to Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), and other locations in New Zealand to observe the unique and highly endangered kakapo. There, she will spend approximately two weeks in the field studying, sketching and photographing, and observing conservation efforts, care, husbandry and management of the nesting season.

There are only 125 Kakapo left in the world. Pat will use her artistic talents to broaden the awareness nationally and internationally for the species, which doesn’t require a vast territory of unbroken rainforest. The needs of the species are modest and entirely possible to achieve. In the 1980’s the Kakapo Recovery through its efforts brought the species back from “extinction” to its present population. This was a huge success for the Kakapo and the Kakapo Recovery team. However the present day economics, funding for immeasurably important projects such as the recovery of unique and irreplaceable species such as the kakapo are disappearing. Recently major corporate funding was pulled from this project, and Kakapo Recovery relies more than ever on private donations and support. Loss of money at this crucial juncture will mean the end of a parrot that has no equivalent. Pat is an ambassador for the species aims to raise funds and generate support for the Kakapo Recovery team and the Kakapo.

This is one of the very few species of endangered birds that has a chance of thriving, if protected and nurtured in this early effort. Throughout her Flag Expedition Pat Latas will observe and illustrate the Kakapo, her previous experience as a volunteer nest-minder with the Kakapo Recovery Team during the 2011 nesting season gives her unique qualifications related to the protocols required for entrance on the restricted island, the equipment and procedures used for the nest-minding, feed-out, and routine maintenance of these birds, as well as her background as veterinarian will provide her with invaluable insight during participation with veterinary procedures.

Mission:

  • To complete field sketching; rendered illustrations (digital and physical); promotional materials for and through recovery efforts, social network publishing, cultural bridging; coloring books; guidebooks; scientific illustrations.
  • Write a journal depicting the daily life of the Kakapo and those working to care for it.
  • To use social media to raise awareness of conservation efforts, and funding.
  • Produce illustrated websites, blogs, online books and publications, downloadable coloring books to reach a global community.
  • Developed artwork for which a portion of the sales will be donated to the Kakapo Recovery effort.
  • Use the networks in a scientific and intelligent manner to raise global awareness (and money) for very specific threatened and endangered species, and conservation programs dedicated to the Kakapo.
  • Develop exhibits, presentations to local artists and conservation entities; articles and presentations to New Zealand Forest and Bird, iwi Ngāi Tahu.
  • Increase a global development of awareness of the plight of threatened habitats, culture, sustainability in general and routes to conservation.
  • Utilize the resulting body of artwork and scientific illustrations to advance knowledge within the scientific community.

 

  • To complete field sketching; rendered illustrations (digital and physical); promotional materials for and through recovery efforts, social network publishing, cultural bridging; coloring books; guidebooks; scientific illustrations.
  • Write a journal depicting the daily life of the Kakapo and those working to care for it.
  • To use social media to raise awareness of conservation efforts, and funding.
  • Produce illustrated websites, blogs, online books and publications, downloadable coloring books to reach a global community.
  • Developed artwork for which a portion of the sales will be donated to the Kakapo Recovery effort.
  • Use the networks in a scientific and intelligent manner to raise global awareness (and money) for very specific threatened and endangered species, and conservation programs dedicated to the Kakapo.
  • Develop exhibits, presentations to local artists and conservation entities; articles and presentations to New Zealand Forest and Bird, iwi Ngāi Tahu.
  • Increase a global development of awareness of the plight of threatened habitats, culture, sustainability in general and routes to conservation.
  • Utilize the resulting body of artwork and scientific illustrations to advance knowledge within the scientific community.

The Kakapo or in Maori ‘Night Parrot', is a species of parrot found only in New Zealand. This unique bird is the only flightless parrot in the world. It is a large, nocturnal, ground dwelling parrot and the heaviest among all species of parrots. Although the Kakapo does not fly it is an excellent climber and “parachutes” from tree tops by spreading its wings and landing on its large feet. It is also one of the longest-living birds worldwide with an average life expectancy of 95 years and the maximum at about 120 years, yet in February of 2012 these birds were placed on the IUCN's endangered list. Historically the Kakapo flourished in the forests of New Zealand as one the third most common bird spanning all three main islands. The Maroi, the indigenous people of New Zealand depicted the Kakapo in their traditional legends and folklore. Yet with Polynesian and European settlements in New Zealand and the increase of predators the Kakapo became a regularly hunted bird.

Conservation efforts began in 1890s by moving a number of the population to uninhabited islands off the New Zealand coast, however predators followed and the birds didn't survive. In 1980 the implantation of the Kakapo Recovery Plan put into place by New Zealand's Department of Conservation began and has been gaining ground against the extinction of this unique parrot. In 1977 there were only 17 known surviving birds however through the help of the Kakapo Recovery Plan the population numbers approximately 125 today. The Kakapos now inhabit three islands; Codfish Island, Anchor Island in southwest Fiordland and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf and are kept predator free by the Kakapo Recovery Team and volunteers how work to conserve the Kakapo and give it a healthy, safe environment to thrive. Kakapo although long living birds have low reproduction rates and generally do not start reproducing until they are 9–11 years of age, only laying 1-2 eggs per breeding cycle. Kakapo will only mate when the environment will support the proper nourishment through the Rumi mast, a native New Zealand tree, when it fruits heavily. Because of this, the Kakapo breed only every three to five years, a very low rate in comparison with other birds.

The protection of the Kakapo's natural environment and a habitat that enable genetic diversity among the Kakapo population are at the front of the conservation effort for these birds. Although the current sanctuaries are able to sustain the current population more predator-free land is required to ensure the survival of the Kakapo.

Visit the Kakapo Recovery Plan website at http://kakaporecovery.org.nz/ to find out more about these unique parrots, see what is being done to conserve them and view the Whakapapa – the Kakapo family tree. Or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakapo

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