The online world is pretty new to DOC staff, but this week we saw how quickly things can blow up – in a remarkable and positive way!
It started a few days ago, when BBC aired the episode of their new series “Last Chance to See” which featured our favourite kakapo, Sirocco. In fact, what REALLY caught people’s interest, was when Sirocco got a bit ‘up close and personal’ with presenter Mark Cawardine. 650 000 Youtube hits later – and New Zealand’s very own kakapo had been catapulted into the international spotlight.
Within a matter of hours after Sirocco’s starring perfomance on “Last Chance to See”, his Facebook page jumped by another 750 friends, and now boasts 2500 online ‘friends’ who are besotted with kakapo and what we do to look after them here in New Zealand.
Department of Conservation staff have been amazed by the response that viewers of the BBC programme, starring Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine, has evoked from the British public. This morning, Sirocco’s antics even featured in “The Sun” newspaper in the UK.
The show “Last Chance to See” is a remake of the series that the late Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine recorded for radio and published a book on in 1990.
Many of the comments posted on Sirocco’s rapidly growing Facebook page send words of support and encouragement to kākāpō recovery as well as many offers of donations to continue to increase the survival of the kākāpō.
I’ve been acting a wee bit as Sirocco’s “publicist” during this time (he couldn’t keep up with all the media interest on his own!) - and we decided that he could definitely benefit from having a Twitter account. So, yesterday, to celebrate the amazing response we have had, we launched a Twitter account for him www.twitter.com/spokesbird (it’s case-sensitive i think too).
When I last checked his Twitter account this afternoon – I found that more than 1500 people are now following his regular Tweets (he prefers to call them “Skraaarks”) which are all about kakapo conservation in New Zealand. We’d love for you to join up to follow him too – so by all means, get on Twitter, and I’ll make sure Sirocco sends out plenty of relevant kakapo information.
What I think is really cool about all of this is that it reminds us that while we may not have megafauna such as lions, tigers or bears in New Zealand – our charismatic, unique and special wildlife is of great interest to people around the world.
And the neat thing about using all of this social media palava, is that we can connect with people all over the world, who are showing a genuine interest in the conservation of our precious native wildlife. That is, they’re not just seeing the Youtube video and having a giggle (although how could you not!?), but they are also taking the time to reach out via the internet to find out A) more about kakapo and B) what they might be able to do to help the species. This is an amazing situation – and one we are watching with great interest!
I thought i’d finish up by posting one of the HUNDREDS of messages that people have posted on Twitter and Facebook, from a lady called Leia in the UK.
“I too saw you on “Last chance to see” all the way over in Wales, UK, what a star you are I hope you and your kind are around for many more years to come and that there’ll always be lovely and dedicated people around to help you out :)”
It makes me real proud to be a kiwi (or should i say kakapo today!?) when people around the world are looking at how we do conservation in little old Aotearoa.