The Kakī, or Black Stilt, was once widespread across a unique system of braided rivers in New Zealand. But introduced predators, including stoats, ferrets, possums and rats, decimated the population, leaving a mere 31 adults and four breeding pairs in the wild by 1991. Today New Zealand’s Department of Conservation’s Kakī recovery program has more than tripled the population to 106 wild adult birds, giving the world’s rarest wading bird a new lease on life.
The program’s success has relied, in part, on a six-bay aviary that provides suitable captive habitat and space for groups of young birds to be raised together from hatching—birds that can ultimately be returned to the wild. In 2015, an unusually large snowstorm destroyed one of the program’s aviaries and damaged another. Through a significant contribution, GWC is supporting the construction of a new 10-bay aviary that will boost the program’s rearing capacity by an extra 60 birds each year.
(Top photo by Kate Lawrence: Juvenile Kakī released into the wild on the Tasman Riverbed, New Zealand South Island. Circular photo by Liz Brown: A pair of Kakī adults in the Tasman Valley.)
The Kakī recovery program ultimately aims to return enough birds to the wild that Kakī chicks can once again fledge naturally in the wild throughout their historical range. This would change the species’ threat classification in New Zealand from “nationally critical” to “recovering.” Getting to that point will require:
- Increasing the project’s rearing capacity to 162-174 birds per year
- A wild population of more than 250 individuals, with between 50 and 100 pairs living in a protected habitat, with surviving chicks
- Defending suitable habitat from invasive predators
(Photo by Liz Brown: Adult Kakī with New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook, in the background.)
Red List Status
Introduced predators, including stoats, ferrets, possums and rats
Black plumage and long pink-red legs