Archives For Sirocco the kakapo

To celebrate his ‘hatch-day’ today’s photo of the week is everyone’s favourite spokesbird, Sirocco the kākāpō.

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The Kākāpō Recovery Programme turns 25 next year and, to celebrate, Sirocco the kākāpō—ambassador for his species and New Zealand’s official Spokesbird for Conservation—partied at Parliament last night.

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He’s better looking than Bieber, more charismatic than Clooney and he has some pretty hardcore admirers.

Sirocco at Zealandia. Photo copyright of Janice McKenna.

One handsome bird

Sirocco the kākāpō is our social media superstar and New Zealand’s Official Spokesbird for Conservation. Today he has reached an amazing milestone in his quest for world domination by reaching a massive 100,000 devoted fans on his Facebook page.

This parrot is not just a national treasure, but also an international rock-star with fans from as far away as Serbia and Brazil. Over 6000 of his fans speak Arabic, 7000 speak Portuguese and 140 fans are even fluent in Pirate – arrrrrr me hearties!

Sirocco the rock-star kakapo book.

The rock-star

Through both Facebook and Twitter, Sirocco connects his fans (now over 100,000), their friends (millions of them), and the wider social media community (billions of them) to conservation messages and stories right here in New Zealand.

Sirocco's Facebook page.


Sirocco’s high-flying career was launched in 2009 off the back of the BBC’s ‘Last Chance to See’ programme, when Sirocco attempted to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine’s head. Footage of this event has now generated more than 6 million hits on YouTube.

Sirocco on Mark Carwardine's head with Stephen Fry.

Mark and Stephen

In January 2010 Sirocco was officially recognised as a conservation ambassador by the Prime Minister John Key, who named him the “Official Spokesbird for Conservation”. Mr Key said Sirocco would bring attention to the plight of our endangered species.

Sirocco is currently touring the country and will be on show from 19 September – 5 October at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin.

You can become one of Sirocco’s loyal followers over on Facebook and Twitter.

By Ashwika Kapur, Filmmaker

Ashwika Kapur holding a video camera.

Ashwika Kapur

I came to New Zealand in early 2013 to chase my childhood dream of obtaining a degree in Natural History Filmmaking so I could entertain and educate audiences through timeless wildlife stories from around the world.

As part of my degree I had to make a film so I began scouting ideas, and among the weird and wonderful creatures of this far away land, I came across Sirocco the kākāpō’s story. It was just one of those things; I simply knew this was the documentary I had to make!

Sirocco looking through a hole in a wooden box.


Sirocco is irresistibly endearing, cheekier than a monkey and remarkably bizarre in his mannerisms. Sirocco is an extraordinary character and his story is equally extraordinary; a true-blue rag to riches tale. My film sets out to tell that story; the one-of-a-kind tale of a bird catapulted to super stardom by a chain of rather strange events.

Sirocco's claws around a tree branch.

Check out those rockstar claws

Sirocco’s story is one of hope, joy and celebration. It optimistically premises the idea that there can be no better ambassadors for conservation than animals themselves.

My film about Sirocco has recently been nominated for a Panda Award, dubbed the ‘Green Oscars’, at the Wildscreen Film Festival.

Sirocco amongst the trees.

Curious Sirocco

The film will be available online to view for free after the Wildscreen Film Festival in October, until then you will have to enjoy watching this short trailer:

There’s nothing quite like a kākāpō to make you smile…

“It seems that not only has the kākāpō  forgotten how to fly, but it has forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly. Apparently a seriously worried kākāpō will sometimes run up a tree and jump out of it, whereupon it flies like a brick and lands in a graceless heap on the ground.” ~ Douglas Adams

Have a terrific Thursday!

Image source:

Sirocco the kākāpō, our social media superstar and New Zealand’s Official Spokesbird for Conservation, was introduced to a new Japanese audience last month and gained thousands of devoted new fans as a result. Tourism New Zealand tells the story:

Sirocco kākāpō. Photo copyright: Janice McKenna.

Sirocco kākāpō. Photo copyright: Janice McKenna

Sirocco the kākāpō has been charming a new international audience after a popular Japanese television show, with an audience in excess of 10 million, mentioned him during a feature on New Zealand in August.

When one of the presenters on the Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q! television show started talking about a kākāpō in New Zealand who had his own Twitter account, but could not recall the account name, the Tourism New Zealand team in Japan grabbed the opportunity to help and sent out a tweet introducing @Spokesbird:

“Looks like Sirocco is hooked on Twitter and Facebook! He said he wants a smart phone too, but the screen doesn’t work with his claws. There are only 124 kakapo alive today, and for Sirocco, every connection is an important one.”

Within a few hours this tweet had generated over 500 retweets and gained Sirocco the kākāpō over 2,000 new followers, all from Japan. Subsequent tweets about New Zealand’s native fauna and flora, as well as appeals to teach Sirocco Japanese, also proved popular with fans young and old.

One of the most popular tweets was when Sirocco tweeted:

日本まで飛んで皆さんに会いに行きたいけど、実は僕、世界で唯一飛べないオウムなんだよ(´・ ω・`)ショボーン。みんながNZまで会いに来てくれたら嬉しいな! 9/6~10/6 南島ダニーデンのオロコヌイ・エコサンクチュアリで僕と会えるよ。

Which translated is:

“I’d love to fly over and visit you all in Japan, but I can’t because I’m the world’s only flightless parrot [sad face]. I’d love it if you came to see me though. I’ll be at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin from Sept 9 till Oct 6.”

The New Zealand parrot shot to fame in 2009 off the back of the BBC’s ‘Last Chance to See’ programme, when Sirocco attempted to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine’s head. Footage of this event generated more than half a million hits on YouTube and had social network sites buzzing.

In January 2010 Sirocco was officially recognised as a conservation ambassador by the Prime Minister John Key, who named the parrot the “Official Spokesbird for Conservation”. Mr Key commented on Sirocco’s “worldwide fan base” who “hang on every squawk that comes out of his beak” and said Sirocco would focus attention on the plight of endangered species.

Sirocco will be on show from 6 Sept – 6 Oct at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin and bookings from Japan are already coming in, with one fan coming back to see Sirocco after visiting him two years ago.

Both the original BBC programme ‘Last Chance to See’ and the Japanese visit from ‘Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q!’ were supported by Tourism New Zealand’s international media programme, reinforcing that key messages from these visits have impact beyond just their in market on air screenings.

Connect with Sirocco on Facebook and Twitter. He’s looking forward to meeting you.

Learn more about Sirocco:

There are only 124 kākāpō left in the world and I have been waiting to see one up close and personal ever since I started working at DOC. I have seen the fans going crazy for kākāpō online, even voting them as the ‘World’s Favourite Species’ in a recent poll. They are a native New Zealand bird that I just had to meet.

I was glad to find out that Sirocco the kākāpō would be visiting Zealandia sanctuary in July. Sirocco has been touring New Zealand for a few years now and this was my chance to get close to one of the few remaining kākāpō left.

To say I was ‘excited’ is probably an understatement. When Zealandia announced the visit I got on their website immediately and booked my ticket for opening night. The anticipation only grew throughout June as Sirocco’s face popped up all over town and in the local newspapers and television.

A sign for Sirocco's Zealandia visit at the Wellington Railway Station. Photo by Elizabeth Marenzi.

Sirocco, world famous in Wellington

The night finally arrived. It was a cool but calm one, and luckily the earthquakes from the previous couple of days had quietened down. The night tour started with a screening of part of Alison Balance’s documentary ‘To Save the Kākāpō’ where we were introduced to Sirocco and the respiratory illness that almost took his life. Sirocco developed this condition while very young and was hand-raised, which has led him to imprint on humans. This makes him very comfortable around people (some might say too comfortable).

After the film the Zealandia guide took us into the sanctuary, making sure we checked all our bags and pockets for any stowaway pests that might harm the creatures that call Zealandia home. My bag was predator free (if a little messy) so we headed out into the night and up the track to see Sirocco.

The track along the way was beautifully lit up with fairy lights. While we walked I chatted with some of the other visitors in the group. I was surprised to find people had come from all over New Zealand, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

Fairy lights up the path to Sirocco's enclosure. Photo by Jo Moore.

Lights lead the way to Sirocco

Sirocco spends his days at Zealandia in a specially fenced off section of forest and at night he comes out into a display area. When we finally arrived at Sirocco’s display area he was already hopping around at the glass peering through to suss out his newest visitors. There was a group of children who he immediately ran to. Sirocco loves children and, at 16 years old, he is not much more than a child himself.

Over the next 30 minutes the DOC ranger told us all about the lifestyle of the kākāpō and about the efforts being undertaken to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Everyone managed to get a good view of Sirocco as he wandered the enclosure.

Sirocco in his viewing enclosure at Zealandia Sanctuary. Photo: Janice McKenna.

Sirocco meets his fans

On the way back down the track we were treated to some high pitched kiwi calls that resonated around the sanctuary. Seeing a kākāpō and hearing kiwi calls all in the same night was a great experience, something I hope becomes more commonplace throughout New Zealand.

If you are in Wellington in the next few weeks I would recommend you head along and cross this unique experience off your bucket list.

Sirocco on display at Zealandia Sanctuary. Photo: Janice McKenna.

Sirocco smiling for the camera

Sirocco at Zealandia:

Memories to last a lifetime – the night you met a kākāpō! Don’t miss this rare chance to meet Sirocco the kākāpō at Zealandia – just 10 minutes from Wellington city. Book your date now on the Zealandia website.