Jobs at DOC: Spokesbird for Conservation, Sirocco the kakapo

Department of Conservation —  19/09/2011

Every Monday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week we find out about our Spokesbird for Conservation, Sirocco the kakapo:

At work

Me as a baby, only 14 days old. So cute!

Name: Sirocco kakapo

Position: Official Spokesbird for conservation, and one of 129 kakapo left in the world.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Officially, I’m the Conservation Spokesbird, and occasionally I get out and about to promote conservation (and myself) in New Zealand. I Facebook and tweet about conservation-oriented stuff and try to get the message out about our threatened flora and fauna and their habitats. Other than that, I’m just your average kakapo stooging around in the bush!

What is the best part about your job?

The travel? Nah, the people. People might think that it’s them seeing me when I am at places like Orokonui and Zealandia, but actually it’s the other way round! I find it fascinating to see all these different shaped bipeds peering through the glass!

And now I'm 14 years old! This is me at my birthday party earlier this year

What is the hardest part about your job?

The travel! No one should be put in a pet crate for any amount of time! The indignity! Why can’t I sit in a seat?

What led you to your role in DOC?

I was hatched into it! Literally. I had health issues when I was a chick and was hand raised by my surrogate mum Daryl Eason (he’s awesome, you should do a piece on him) and the rest is history.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

The macadamia nuts? Wrong answer! Getting back out into the public eye. I enjoy the solitary ways of my normal parrot life but it’s nice to get out and about and spread the conservation message. The nuts are a bonus too.

The rule of three

Three loves

  1. My mum Zephyr (and you too Daryl!)
  2. Macadamia nuts.
  3. Haggis the takahē, but she ran off with one of them takahē blokes. Woe is me! 

One of my portfolio shots. Who's a pretty boy then?

Three pet peeves

  1. An empty food hopper that should be full.
  2. Blue penguins invading my track and bowl.
  3. Introduced mammalian predators!

Three foods

  1. Lately I have really been enjoying the juicy bits of the renga renga lily, but I will eat most things green and planty.
  2. Coprosma berries (mmm beeerrries).
  3. Macadamia nuts when I can get them.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, it’s my place of hatching. Particularly Norwest Bay, my old hood. 
  2. Te Hoiere/Maud Island, it’s my current home and has a nice climate, plus Haggis the takahē lives there. 
  3. Rakiura/Stewart Island, it’s my ancestral home (where mum and dad came from) and it’s a beautiful part of New Zealand.

Favourite movie, album, book

Munchin' on a kumara-pop

  1. Movie: I’m not really big on movies, I only get to see them from outside the hut (why is that!), but I do like David Attenborough’s Life of Birds series. I’m a bird and I am still amazed by the things birds can do!
  2. Album: It’s not an album but I really like the dawn chorus on Maud Island. It’s like my reverse alarm clock telling me to go to bed!
  3. Book: Alison Ballance’s recent book, Kakapo. It’s about as up to date on kakapo as you can get and, obviously, it has me in it.

Deep and meaningful

What piece of advice would you tell your two year old self?

I would say, “Self, when you’re hanging out in your tree during the day having a snooze, minding your own biz, and you hear the people coming, it’s usually not to give you a macadamia nut! Something is up! Especially when they have the carry crate with them.”

Who or what inspires you and why?

All the people who give their time to conservation. I’ve seen a lot of volunteers and rangers in my time (some even have the scars to prove it!) and it’s amazing how much hard work and love they bring to the cause. It is truly inspiring to see such dedication and it makes me feel all warm to know they have got my best interests at heart, as well as those of all the other critters and plants.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An artist's interpretation of me as Ranger Sirocco

A DOC ranger, they seem to have all the fun. And now, well, I kind of am one aren’t I? ‘Ranger Sirocco’ … Sounds good to me. Where’s my uniform?

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

I quite liked the look of that cockpit on my flight down to Dunedin, all those buttons and lights, maybe a pilot!

If you could be any other New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

One that can fly! Perhaps a karearea/New Zealand falcon, they look pretty neat and boy can they fly! Is there a pattern forming here? I’m perfectly fine with walking most of the time, but, you know, well, flying looks like so much fun!

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

My old friend Don Merton once said, “They are our national monuments. They are our Tower of London, our Arc de Triomphe, our pyramids. We don’t have this ancient architecture that we can be proud of and swoon over in wonder, but what we do have is something that is far, far older than that. No one else has kiwi, no one else has kakapo. They have been around for millions of years, if not thousands of millions of years. And once they are gone, they are gone forever. And it’s up to us to make sure they never die out.” 

So true. People! We need to value and protect all of our native species and their habitats, not just the super awesome handsome ones like me. So get out there and get stuck in kiwis. We all need your help. Get involved! Plant a tree, run a pest trap line or give your time as a volunteer to a conservation project, and if you’re passionate like I am, tell anyone who will listen. And if they won’t listen, tell ‘em anyway!

4 responses to Jobs at DOC: Spokesbird for Conservation, Sirocco the kakapo


    People might be interested in the original article Don’s quote comes from, which is here

    Joseph Williams 26/09/2011 at 7:26 pm

    Hey Sirocco, what happened to your website? I had set as my homepage and it’s gone now. Where else can I go to get my updates on NZ birds (In the avian sense, not… well, you know)?

    Lynnette Ward 19/09/2011 at 9:13 pm

    I am going to use this as an example of personification for a class of Year 7 & 8 students on Wednesday. There’s nothing like delivering two lessons in one! (I was going to say”killing two birds with one stone” but it didn’t sound quite right in the context!!!)


      Personification? I don’t know what you mean! 🙂 Ahem. I do hope the lesson went well and your class enjoyed learning about Sirocco. We’ll let you kill two birds with one stone, this time…