Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sirocco, New Zealander of the Year

Sirocco the kakapo gets cosy with zoologist Mark Carwadine.

I think the Broadcasters Handbook states that this weekend is when radio and TV personalities should start reviewing the year just passed.

This weekend, not the Friday prior to this weekend.

Yesterday morning the radio announcer who accompanies me on my drive to work, was asked to name his New Zealander of the year. He was obviously taken unawares. But as radio announcers must avoid long pauses he muttered briefly, grasped onto a passing thought and decided that a native bird is a New Zealander and chose Sirocco, the kakapo.

He didn't elaborate much but recommended his listeners look the bird up on the net. Obviously I had missed that news story so I looked it up. A few kakapo facts:

The kakapo is one of New Zealand’s unique ‘treasures’ and with only 124 known surviving birds it is listed internationally as a critically endangered species.

With so few kakapo remaining, they all need special attention which is provided by the Department of Conservation (DOC) who work to save them from extinction. They have moved all kakapo to New Zealand's off-shore islands, where there are no predators - like possums, rats and stoats.

It is the rarest parrot in the world. It’s flightless, nocturnal, it’s the world’s heaviest parrot, it's possibly the oldest living bird and it has a subsonic mating boom that can travel several kilometres, just to name a few things!

Sirocco, Mike Hoskings' New Zealander of the Year, had an uncertain start to life, suffering a respiratory illness at three weeks old. The treatment he required meant that he had to be hand-raised, and he was the first male kakapo for this to happen. Unfortunately he had to be raised in the absence of other kakapo, and as a result became imprinted on humans. Older age doesn’t seem to have increased his interest in other kakapo yet; he doesn’t associate with them at all, and instead he booms in the presence of humans.

As a result, staff realised he is unlikely to be an effective breeding bird, but decided he had a future as an extremely good advocate for his species; and can provide a great opportunity for people to meet a live kakapo. He has been visited by many school groups, and provides hard-working volunteers with a good chance of seeing a bird.

Sirocco remains a wild bird in that he does not live in captivity, but he has visited several places in the last few years - on tour as ambassador for his species.

He achieved superstar status in October 2009, when the BBC series “Last Chance to See” featuring Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine aired in the UK. A YouTube clip of Sirocco getting ‘up close and personal’ (read trying to mate) with presenter Mark Cawardine 's head gained more than 700 000 views in just one week! And that's a lot of hits for a New Zealander.

To see how Sirocco gained his fame, click here. It's very funny!


  1. That bird is cute! A shame it's so rare, thanks for sharing.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  2. As usual Pauline you are just full of information. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I saw the Stephen Fry/Mark Carwardine programme. It was wonderful.


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