Today’s photo of the week is of a kākā popping in to a summer party on a balcony in Wellington City.
The population of kākā in the capital is increasing thanks to the work of conservationists and Wellington wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.
The success of restoring native birds to cities is bringing those birds into increasing conflict with humans according to Victoria University’s recent research.
Kākā, pukeko and red-billed gulls were found to be the species most likely to encounter problems in cities. The research has helped to identify these species and will mean emerging problems can be monitored and addressed.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
If you love the idea of Wellington becoming the wildlife capital of New Zealand, then you’re going to love Enhancing the Halo – a new conservation initiative backed by the Morgan Foundation. Today, Nick Tansley from the Foundation, tells us what it’s all about.
Enhancing the halo is all about creating a safe haven for all of our native creatures in our backyards in Wellington. We want to make the most of all the work put into the wildlife hotspots around Wellington such as Zealandia, Otari-Wilton’s Bush and Oruaiti Reserve.
Enhancing the halo will help protect bellbirds and other native species
One part of the project is about focussing on how to deal with pests on our sections and I am finding this to be a really exciting area. The specialists working alongside Enhancing the Halo are breaking new ground in urban pest control.
Families that I have talked to are also really keen to get cracking into a project they can do at home and that involves hands on activities.
Recently I visited St Mark’s Church school with Gareth Morgan. The classroom was filled with bright eyed kids who made us both feel welcome and were eager to ask questions. It was great to see that their science teachers were already exploring many environmental issues with their students. These students were well informed and already passionate about conservation.
Gareth talking to students at St Mark’s Church School.
We asked the Year 7 and 8 students to put up their hands if they wanted to start trapping predators. Every boy’s arm was thrust to the ceiling as if we had asked “who likes free ice-cream?” Girls were a little more conservative, wanting to learn more before committing to killing things.
Capturing the children’s enthusiasm for action, and their parent’s desire for making an ecological difference, gives us hope that Wellington can bring back the dawn chorus.
Watch a video of New Zealand’s dawn chorus:
Live in Wellington? Become a Halo Household
Sign up to be a Halo Household and make your backyard a haven for native wildlife. You’ll also get:
– a chance to win a $5000 backyard make over
– your views aired on discussion boards
– experts addressing your halo issues
– access to pest trapping equipment
– a Halo Household welcome pack and a Halo Household sticker