Dietary Supplement Could Save Rare Parrot from Extinction

Kakapo want a cracker?

The kakapo -- a rare parrot native to New Zealand -- is one odd bird. The world's largest parrot species, the kakapo is flightless, nocturnal, and thrives on fruit that is only available every 2-6 years.

The fruit from pink pine and rimu trees is so essential to the kakapo diet that they do not breed when it is not available. Unfortunately, the trees have become rarer thanks to habitat loss, and as a result the kakapo has experienced a catastrophic population decline in recent years. (The introduction of predators like cats, dogs and rats also contributed to their near-extinction.) Today, only a few dozen of the birds remain.

Now, scientists at the University of Glasgow, working with New Zealand's Department of Conservation, are trying to reverse that trend. They have produced a dietary supplement which provides the kakapo with much-needed nutrition, and tests have shown that kakapo who eat the supplement are more likely to lay eggs.

This is one more step in a long recovery process for the kakapo. Once believed to be extinct, there are now 86 known kakapo in the world, and research like this could help give the species the boost it needs to avoid extinction.

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kakapos are the coolest species of animal on the planet, hands down. i hope one day they will have such a large, sturdy population that humans can have them as pet/companions. if the scientists stay sharp and bring 'em back from the brink i won't give up the dream.

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