“If we lost the kakapo, the world would still go on. But we would lose a small and distinct piece of our ecosystem,” Digby says.

But he’s holding out hope. His goal is to get a stable population of 500 adult kakapo (generally a large enough population to ensure genetic diversity), to expand the area where they live, to incorporate imagery technology to better predict their breeding seasons. If the New Zealand government is successful in removing its small mammal predators by 2050, as it plans to do, Digby would like to reintroduce kakapo to the mainland. “If there are large areas that can be cleared [of predators], we can put kakapo back there,” Digby says.

Why work so hard to save the kakapo, you might wonder? Because it could help save everything else.

“If people can see kakapo, be interested, they’ll end up caring about where kakapo lives,” Digby says. “It’s a really good flagship species, a gateway species to get people into conservation and wildlife.”

View the research for this story via Write in Stone.

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