Archives For spokesbird

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.

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:

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!