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Today is a proud moment for DOC, for kakapo and for lovers of big green budgies everywhere.

This year is the International Year of Biodiversity, a year when we can make a difference to our natural living space, a year we celebrate our amazing, unique biodiversity.

So to mark this special year and in recognition of Sirocco the kakapo’s celebrity status, our world famous parrot has been officially recognized as a conservation ambassador by the Prime Minister John Key!

You can see the film clip of the Prime Minister making the announcement on YouTube (this link opens in a new window).

Sirocco’s appointment to Spokesbird for Conservation is believed to be a world first – and why not?!

New Zealand has an extraordinary number of animals and plants not found anywhere else in the world. The richness and diversity of these animals and plants, together with our landscapes, waterways and coastlines, create our unique biodiversity – our natural living space.

We have a vast wealth of unique animals and plants – we have the world’s only flightless, nocturnal parrot, the world’s smallest marine dolphin, the last surviving member of the dinosaur family – New Zealand is a treasure trove of natural, beautiful stuff. But we also have one of the highest percentages of threatened species in the world. We have so much to lose so we need to do more to protect them. Sirocco represents what makes us so special, what we could lose if we don’t remain vigilent and recognise the true value of what we have.

Sirocco is on Facebook and Twitter so join in, get involved, and follow his adventures at:

You can also read about the International Year of Biodiversity on the DOC website.

Sirocco the avatar

Sirocco as he appears on his new website

A very important part of Sirocco’s current daily routine on Ulva Island was a health check to make sure he’s in top condition for his display.

His minder, Karin, checked his feathers for any signs of stress (stress shows up as ‘bars’ or breaks across a feather),

Feather check

Feather check

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

checked his beak and nostrils were clear,

Karin checks Sirocco

Say "ahhhhhh"

looked at his feet and ensured there were no cuts or abrasions,

Sirocco's feet are checked

This little piggie ...

checked his transmitter was nice and secure and not rubbing under his feathered armpits

Checking Sirocco's transmitter

Checking the transmitter location

and weighed him to ensure he’s maintaining or putting on weight – on Saturday he weighed in at 2.42kg, up from 2.24kg the previous week which is great progress as he’s a bit on the light side at the moment

Weighing Sirocco

Sirocco's daily weigh-in

and finally because Sirocco has a few mites he was given a dusting of Frontline – it’s not unusual for parrots to get mites and pesky critters,  they’re not difficult to treat but he didn’t seem too impressed by this type of attention

Sirocco receiving dust mite treatment

A 'not-terribly-impressed' kakapo

At the end of the routine he was rewarded with a special treat, this time it’s seedless green grapes and of course always more than one …

Sirocco receives a seedless green grape

The kind of attention Sirocco prefers

Being the laid-backed parrot he is, Sirocco took his daily physical all in his stride and carried on hanging out with Karin as she checked his pen.

Sirocco keeps a watchful eye from his favourite tree

Sirocco keeps a watchful eye from his favourite tree

Sirocco sticks close to Karin

Sirocco sticks close to Karin

I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the company of Sirocco the kakapo on Ulva Island.

It was my first encounter with the big green budgie of love and before meeting this endangered bird I went through an elaborate quarantine procedure that started at home two days before departure.

Washing all of my “on-island” clothes and shoes with a special disinfectant was the first step of preparation.  The second step occurred on the island when I donned a fetching disinfected boiler suit and gum boots.  After medi-wiping my hands and camera equipment I moved into the race, a pathway separating Sirocco’s display pen from his chill-out pad. 

Karin, Sirocco’s Ulva Island minder, stopped me in my tracks … before proceeding further I was required to wear a disinfected fleecy hat … but it wasn’t cold.  “It’s not to keep your head warm,” Karin explained with a smile, “But to protect your head from Sirocco’s enthusiasm for all things human!”

Ah-ha.

Sirocco heard his visitors’ arrival long before we arrived at his door, I could hear him scrabbling for a beak-hold in an attempt to break free of his solitary confines and join the company of his adoring humans.

As Karin soothed him with her kakapo-whispering the anticipation was building; my hands were clammy, my breath shallow, butterflies rode rollercoasters in my stomach.  Would it be everything I had hoped for?  Would he be disappointed?  Would he reject me in favour of his existing human, Karin?

Then there was The Moment.  The Moment his door opened and we met face to beak for the first time.  The Moment I met the most famous of the remaining critically endangered kakapo.

It was reciprocal love at first sight.

I was not disappointed – clearly he wasn’t either as he charged past Karin, making a bee-line for my gum boot, settling himself down on my foot with a sigh and a look of piqued curiosity.

And so we meet ... Donna meets Sirocco for the first time

And so we meet

As I sank to my knees he hopped on my leg, his large dextrous feet gripping tightly as he climbed pigeon-toed into my lap for a closer look.

Gripped by a kakapo - Sirocco's feet

Gripped by a kakapo

The green whiskered face peered closely. I was being inspected by a rare parrot.

You are being inspected by a rare parrot - Sirocco looks at Donna

You are being inspected by a rare parrot

After what felt like several minutes, but in reality was only seconds, I had been pronounced acceptable and Sirocco plopped to the ground in search of treats from Karin; when not driven by insatiable desire for company he’s satisfying his insatiable appetite for grapes.

The romance continued with sneaky kisses, attempts to unzip my offending boiler suit and snuggling up for a bit of feather- to-cheek whenever possible. 

Sneaky kakapo kiss - Sirocco kisses Donna

Sneaky kakapo kiss

Zip goes down ... Sirocco unzips Donna's boiler suit

Zip goes down ...

Our time was all too brief, but I left after two days with Sirocco’s well-deserved reputation intact. 

You couldn't call him shy - Sirocco kisses Donna

You couldn't call him shy

He is not only the most famous of his kind, but the most amorous and quite unfussy about who’s on the receiving end of his affection; I’m too in love to care about his infidelity – the affections of Sirocco deserve to be shared.

Sharing the kakapo love with Karin

Sharing the kakapo love with Karin

See more photos of Sirocco on Flickr.

Kakapoop

Donna Williams —  28/10/2009

One of the little known facts about kakapo is, compared to the size of the bird, they deliver huge poos!

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