When it comes to unique birds, the kakapo is king. It holds several world records:
It's the heaviest parrot in the world
• It's possibly the longest-lived bird species in the world; the low adult mortality rate
suggests a mean life expectancy of 90 years
• It's flightless
• It's the only parrot that has a 'lek' breeding system
Whenua Hou, or Codfish Island, is a large, bush-covered island about 3km off the wild west
coast of Stewart Island. It provides kakapo with a 1400ha home that is very similar to their
original habitat of Stewart Island, and is now the centre for kakapo recovery in New
When kakapo were originally moved to Whenua Hou, it was inhabited by rats, which can
threaten kakapo eggs and chicks. Since the 1980s all predators have been progressively
removed, culminating in a huge rat eradication programme in 1998. The rat eradication
means that Whenua Hou is now an ideal long-term home for kakapo.
This was dramatically illustrated by the phenomenal breeding event of 2002, when 24 chicks
were added to the kakapo population in a matter of months.
Three kakapo staff work on Whenua Hou, and have to put up with an isolated location and
the wild weather of New Zealand's deep south. It has no roads and is reached by light plane
The island is a specially-protected nature reserve, and no unauthorised landing is permitted.