A critically endangered species of parrot is being threatened by the emergence of respiratory aspergillosis, which has killed seven birds so far. The total population of the kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot, currently stands at just over 200 – so this fungal infection could be devastating for the species. The first diagnosis of aspergillosis occurred in April, and a fifth of the population has been sent to veterinary hospitals for diagnosis and treatment since then.
Aspergillosis is notoriously difficult to identify and treat in birds, and it can take months of intensive treatment for the birds to recover. The kakapo isn’t the only bird at risk either, other vulnerable species native to New Zealand – such as the Kiwi and Hihi – may be affected by the disease too. The exact cause of this outbreak is unknown, with theories pointing to significant spore loading in nests this season, combined with other factors such as nest stress or underlying viral infection. Massive efforts are being put in to monitor, identify and treat any birds affected, to try and save the species.