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By DOC’s Andrea Crawford, Dunedin.

Over 1,000 people met three remarkable kākāpō chicks during a public viewing in Arrowtown near Queenstown recently.

The three kākāpō chicks together.

The three kākāpō chicks together

The smiles on people’s faces told it all—pure delight at seeing three kākāpō chicks at Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall.

Event sponsor Real Journeys’ Chief Executive, Richard Lauder, observed that the chicks were received like “rock stars” by the local community.

Arrowtown Hall was packed with people.

Arrowtown Hall was packed with people

Many people at the ‘Kākāpō Chicks Day Out‘ expressed thanks to DOC, saying they appreciated how special it was to get the chance to see these remarkable, rare and charismatic native birds.

It was great people got to see the chicks and learn about what makes them so special and, of course, raise awareness to assist with their recovery.

Students observing two kākāpō chicks through the glass.

Students meet two of the three kākāpō chicks on display in Arrowtown

Welfare of the chicks was critical, so all steps were taken to ensure they remained healthy and relaxed.

They took all the attention in their stride.

As well as a viewing opportunity, people listened to talks by DOC’s Kākāpō Recovery team, watched an audio-visual display and asked the kākāpō staff plenty of questions.

Kakapo chick looking at the camera.

Kākapō chick strikes a pose

The event raised about $5,000 for the programme, through gold coin donations, merchandise sales, and through the Kākāpō Adoption Programme.

The chicks will soon be moved to Whenua Hou/Codfish Island where they will spend four weeks in an outdoor pen. They will then be released into the wild and monitored closely for the next year while they are particularly vulnerable to misadventure as they learn about their wild habitat.

Watch the video by Real Journeys:

Do you follow Sirocco the kākāpō on Facebook and Twitter? This charismatic kākāpō is an ambassador for his species and New Zealand’s official Spokesbird for Conservation.

DOC’s Bronwyn Aalders recently spent a week on Codfish Island helping the Kākāpō Recovery team and had the privilege of meeting Maggie the kākāpō, who was tragically killed in a landslide last week.

Bronwyn at the summit on Codfish Island.

Bronwyn at the summit on Codfish Island

Midway through my week volunteering on Codfish Island as a nest controller, I had the opportunity to accompany the kākāpō rangers to track Maggie the kākāpō.

After a brisk forty minute walk across the centre of the island we started to head off track and descend the soft, tangled slopes above the sea.

It was very important to avoid the numerous petrel nests dug into the peat soil while we gradually began to pinpoint Maggie’s location. The terrain became almost vertical and we began clambering and crawling our way through twisted trunks and branches as the telemetry beeps became louder.

With packs now discarded we knew we were close, with two people above and two people below, and Maggie cleverly camouflaged and ready to run somewhere in between.

Holding Maggie the kākāpō.

Maggie the kākāpō

Suddenly a ranger looked up and spotted her calmly roosting above us trying to keep still. She was swiftly and gently brought down ready for some quick measurements and health checks.

Maggie was gorgeous and the first kākāpō I had ever seen in the wild. It was thrilling to see her up close, to smell her musky feathers and to take in her sheer size and presence. All with the sounds of the waves crashing beneath us and the sight of Rakiura in the distance.

Maggie's wing feathers spread.

Maggie’s beautiful wings

Several tests, photos, flaps and bites later, I filmed Maggie waddling away back up the hill, head down – just as Douglas Adams described in ‘Last Chance to See’.

Farewell Maggie…

Maggie's feathers up close.

Maggie’s feathers up close