Almost the last...
There are only 197 reproductive specimens left of a bird that is extraordinary and a living symbol of evolutionary development: 80 million years ago, when the island later called "New Zealand" separated from the primeval continent of Gondwana, the kakapo, a parrot species, found paradisiacal conditions. There were no predators, flight was therefore not necessary and so its flying abilities atrophied over millions of years.
This paradise ended abruptly when New Zealand was discovered and settled by Europeans in the 17th/18th century. Dogs, cats, rats and other mammals came to the island, and the flightless kakapo became easy prey.
Today, the bird, which has twice been voted "Bird of the Year" by New Zealanders and has a firm following, is kept in a conservation programme on five islands that are free of predatory mammals.
The exclusively nocturnal bird smells like damp moss, looks cute and is extremely demanding in terms of its habitat and reproductive activities. This makes it difficult for researchers to ensure the bird's survival. For example, the kakapo only mates every two to four years, when the rimu resinous yew, a tree native to New Zealand, bears its highly energetic fruit. The animals reproduce correspondingly slowly.
The Kakapo Recovery Programme monitors each individual animal, because only in this way can a population develop from the small numbers and remain viable on its own. In order to continue the programme successfully, more predator-free habitats are needed in the future, because with 197 birds, the five islands are already well utilised.