Archives For Sirocco the kākāpō

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!

Hi everyone,  

I checked my email this afternoon, and I had this message from the big green budgie of love waiting in my inbox. There wasn’t a “Hi Sam, how’s it going?” or anything like that, but this bird is pretty much the head honcho around here (Except for maybe the Director General), so when he says “Skraaaark!” I say “Sure thing”. Take it away Sirocco:  

Sirocco the Spokesbird.

Sirocco as NZ's spokesbird for conservation.

 So, Sunday is a pretty important day for me, and the people of New Zealand.  

At 8.30pm on Prime TV the fantastic programme “Last Chance to See” goes to air with yours truly in the starring role!  Never mind about the programme’s humans – Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry – they’re just part of the scenery.  The only thing that matters is my appearance which will be the talk of the country 🙂  This episode is the one that launched my international stardom as the big green budgie of love, thanks to Stephen’s comments about Mark being “shagged by a rare parrot”.  Of course it’s much more than sex – there’s love, drama and intrigue, there’s laughter and there are tears.  Don’t worry, it’s not X-rated material, I’m just doing what comes natural to birds and bees all over the world, only I might have chosen the wrong target for my affections!!  But then for me life has always been more interesting with humans than with my fellow kakapo.   

Sirocco in Last Chance To See.

Sirocco in Last Chance To See

Filming took place early last year and I’m really looking forward to seeing the programme. Not only was the series extremely popular in the UK, it has an interesting history too. Just over 20 years ago, zoologist Mark Carwardine teamed up with the late Douglas Adams (author of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy) and together they embarked on a groundbreaking expedition, travelling the globe in search of some of the world’s most endangered animals. Nearly nine years since Douglas passed away, Mark teamed up with one of his closest friends – actor and comedian, Stephen Fry – to see how these animals fared during this period.  

Sometimes it’s bad news. Mark and Stephen couldn’t find a Manatee in the Amazon. But when they headed off to to Madagascar in search of the mysterious nocturnal Aye-aye, a lemur so ugly, which according to local legend is said to bring death to those who encounter it, they managed to see at least three individuals alive and well which means there’s a tiny bit of hope left for the species. Last week Stephen and Mark travelled to the Malay Archipeligo on their way to the Indonesian island of Komodo where they saw Komodo Dragons. I think I’d be a canapé for those dragons, they’re big, they’re mean and they’re hungry. 

This week they’re in stunning Fiordland looking for beautiful me! And they wont be disappointed 🙂 Thanks to the dedication and endless hard work of volunteers and DOC rangers kakapo are one of the success stories of this programme. When Mark and Douglas Adams filmed the first series 20 years ago there would have been less than 50 kakapo left in the world. We were a species teetering on the edge of extinction. Now there are 123 of my kind and while that doesn’t mean our future is secure, it does mean that we stand a better chance of survival. The hard work isn’t over yet, but the kakapo recovery programme is doing amazing things for the rarest parrot in the world and hopefully it means the world will never be without glorious, gorgeous, adorable kakapo. 

I hope you enjoy my star turn – don’t forget to tune in to Prime on Sunday at 8.30pm. You can also check out these websites for more information about how awesome I am! 

Lots of skraaaarks to everyone 


More information on kakapo: