It’s a bit hard on the ego being upstaged by a parrot – even a parrot as beautiful and rare as Sirocco! Here I was thinking that I was a sort of DOC VIP, what with the Meet the Locals TV show and such, but a quick google around reveals that I am a mere speck in the universe compared to our true conservation ambassador – Sirocco the kakapo. He’s on youtube, he has his own Facebook profile page, there are currently billboards featuring his big beautiful face around Auckland City right now, and today I found an article on him in the Guardian paper in the UK!!! (you have to scroll down to the “Man-eating parrot” subtitle!).
So who better to help us celebrate Conservation Week this year – and all of those people (many of you!) who ‘get involved’, than our very own kakapo celebrity, Sirocco. DOC and Auckland Zoo have joined forces and are hosting this very special guest to help tell the story of kakapo conservation in NZ and the incredible work of the Kakapo Recovery Programme (www.kakaporecovery.org.nz).
Sirocco is one of 124 kakapo remaining in the world. He is a very special bird, and developed his penchant for people after being hand-raised as a chick due to a chest infection 12 years ago. This led to him becoming very fond of humans (more fond of them than kakapo so far!), and as such, Sirocco has become an excellent advocate for conservation in NZ. Sirocco is renowned for his antics down on Whenua Hou, where his bowl (male kakapo create elaborate ‘track and bowl’ systems to attract females) is situated behind the Sealer’s Bay hut on the way to the toilet! The funniest story I heard about him was when he joined one of our ranger’s families who were jumping off a jetty and swimming – not wanting to be left out, Sirocco made a running leap off the jetty into the ocean! ‘turns out kakapo can swim! (you can see a video of our ranger telling that story here)
The saddest thing I ever learned about kakapo was that they used to be one of NZ’s most common birds – found all over this country. Unfortunately hunting, habitat destruction and introduced predators took their toll on the kakapo -reducing their numbers to just 50 by 1995. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of the Kakapo Recovery Programme, the thousands of volunteers, scientists, rangers, vets and sponsors – kakapo are now back over 100. This year, beyond all expectations, 33 chicks survived (26 of whom were captive-raised in Invercargill!), and six years from now when these birds start to breed – it may give these amazing birds just the boost they need to thrive again one day.
Anyway, Sirocco will be visiting Auckland Zoo from September 14th-23rd to help celebrate Conservation Week and tell the story of one of our greatest conservation challenges. We’d LOVE to see you there. for more info and ticket bookings, please visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/kakapo and http://www.conservationweek.org.nz/
Having met Sirocco a few times now – i can honestly say that a real-life encounter with these birds (even a hard-case one like Sirocco!) is a life-changing experience. I would recommend for all of you in Auckland during this time to take the chance to meet this amazing icon of our natural heritage. Look forward to seeing you there!