Object of the Week – 31/01/13

Can you guess what the object of the week is? Somewhere on the first floor you will find this curious animal.

This isn't a duck with a mutation for five toes


Did you know what last week’s object of the week was?

Kakapo (Strigops habroptila)

The Kakapo is undoubtedly the star of the museum and an interesting bird for many reasons. It is the heaviest parrot in the world, the only nocturnal parrot and also the only flightless parrot. In early 2012 there were only 126 individuals left in New Zealand, where they live on the South Islands in several small populations.

The Kakapo is an example of Island gigantism. Animals that live on isolated islands can grow to much larger sizes compared to individuals of the same species that live on the mainland. They find themselves in a habitat without the selection pressures that keep their size in check like an absence of predators or competition.

Just like the extinct Dodo that lived on Mauritius, the Kakapo population started to decline when humans arrived on their island. As well as hunting the Kakapo for food they brought with them dogs and other animals that the Kakapo had never encountered and did not try to hide from. The Kakapo has little in the way of survival instincts; they have a very strong smell, freeze when caught unawares and the males make loud booming calls long into the night.  Later in the 19th century further predators were introduced and large areas of their habitat were cleared for farming.

The good news is that Kakapo numbers are now on the increase. Each bird has been given their own name and fitted with a radio transmitter so they can be monitored.