Tiwai Point smelter boss Ryan Cavanagh said it had stated its intention to exit the kakapo recovery partnership last week and was working closely with the Conservation Department and Forest & Bird to ensure the programme was left in a sustainable position.
Mr Cavanagh said his company had previously committed to the kakapo recovery partnership through till 2015.
However, the smelter was now losing money and was approaching suppliers and customers to see where it could save money.
The company wanted to pull out of its kakapo recovery programme contract but if it couldn't, it would meet its commitments.
He said its priority was to ensure its business survived the challenging conditions it was experiencing.
DOC spokesman Rory Newsam said the smelter team had shared its financial situation with DOC staff in Southland last week.
He confirmed that Rio Tinto had commitments to the kakapo recovery programme through till 2015.
Mr Newsam indicated that DOC would fight to keep its long-standing partnership with the smelter intact.
"DOC is fully committed to the kakapo recovery programme and we will be talking to the company about how we continue this valuable conservation partnership."
It is understood DOC spends about $1 million a year on kakapo recovery and $200,000 of that money has been provided by Rio Tinto each year.
The smelter's staff also put in many volunteer hours helping with the kakapo recovery programme.
Mr Cavanagh said NZAS had been part of the kakapo recovery partnership for 22 years and had invested more than $4m into the conservation of kakapo, which was a "very special iconic species".
"We are just not walking away and hope to continue with the programme in some form," he said.
The aluminium industry was experiencing tough conditions with low aluminium prices and the high exchange rate, he said.
Mr Cavanagh said NZAS valued its partnership with both DOC and Forest and Bird - it was Rio Tinto's longest running partnership and in the past 22 years the kakapo population had increased from 51 birds to 125.
Since 2004, the smelter's employees had volunteered more than 900 days supporting the programme by assisting with maintenance, supplementary feeding and nest minding, he said.