The friendship of two kākāpō recovering in Dunedin after complicated surgeries is offering hope in a month when other chicks are being hit by a deadly fungal disease.

One of the chicks at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital, Queenie, is recuperating after leg surgery, while the other, Espy, underwent world-first brain surgery at Wildbase Hospital, Massey University, two weeks ago.

The two are becoming fast friends.

"Which has been really good for our little Queenie chick because you don't want to hand-rear them," the Dunedin hospital's founder, Dr Lisa Argilla, said.


Queenie was originally sent there when a couple of weeks old after her mother stomped on and broke her leg on Anchor Island.

Argilla performed surgery on the leg, removing some bone and realigning it, then stabilised it with a brace.

But the 10-week-old chick was extremely active, Argilla said.

"Which is not really conducive to looking after a fracture. With a human, you'd say bed rest, use crutches."

The young kākāpō was not listening to instructions and was climbing over things, trying to get back to her friend.

So Argilla put her into the other bird's cage.

"She calmed down a lot after that."

The other chick, 9-week-old Espy, underwent pioneering surgery after a CT scan showed the plates of her skull had not completely fused. Vets from around the country flew to Palmerston North to perform the operation, which was based on the kind performed on humans.

This comes at a time when despite a bumper breeding season, the fungal disease aspergillosis has spread on Whenua Hou island, near Stewart Island. It has caused the deaths of several chicks and an adult in the past three weeks and at least five more are being inspected.

"And it's starting to affect the adults, which is really scary, we don't want to lose them."

There are 144 living kākāpō adults and 73 chicks.

Otago Daily Times