Owl parrot / Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus). Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Conservation status: critically endangered. The kakapo is the only flightless parrot in the world. It is also the largest parrot. The first human settlers of New Zealand were the Maori. They hunted kakapo for feathers and meat. The Polynesian dog and rat introduced by the Maori caused a further decline. When Europeans settled in the 1800s, the situation became critical due to deforestation and hunting. The kakapo is particularly vulnerable to predation by mammals due to its strong scent, habit of freezing when threatened, its ground nesting behaviour and flightlessness.
As biologists describe new species and add to our understanding of the interrelated nature of life on Earth, a species becomes extinct every 20 minutes (100 to 1000 times the background extinction rate as seen in the fossil record). Collections in natural history museums play important roles in conservation, education and research. Most of that work and the associated specimens are not on public display in museumsÃ¢€š typically, less than five percent of specimens are exhibited.