Sirocco the kākāpō conservation superstar

The kākāpō who thinks he's human

Sirocco caught a respiratory illness at three weeks old. Treating it meant he had to be hand-raised and kept away from other kākāpō and as a result became imprinted on humans - he doesn't know he's a bird, he thinks he's one of us.

He's still not interested in other kākāpō; he doesn’t associate with them, and instead he booms in the presence of humans. In fact, his bowl (where male kākāpō boom to attract females) was on the track to the toilet behind the hut on Whenua Hou or Codfish Island. He now lives on Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds where he keeps watch on the rangers and any visiting children from local schools.

Sirocco on tour

Sirocco. Photo: Mike Bodie.
Sirocco on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island)

While he is unlikely to be an effective breeding bird, Sirocco's preference for human company makes him a valuable ambassador for his species.

Because kākāpō are so rare, it’s difficult for the public to get an opportunity to see one. Sirocco lets people connect with this rare and unusual species. He remains a wild bird in that he does not live in captivity, but he has visited a few places in the last few years so that people could have the opportunity to see a kākāpō.

2013

Sirocco visited Zealandia, in the capital city Wellington during July/August, and Orokonui Ecosanctuary in September.

2012

Sirocco visited Maugatauatari, in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand, during August and September 2012.  

2011

New Zealand's most famous bird was at Orokonui Ecosanctuary in September and Zealandia in November 2011. 

Sirocco meets the Associate Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson. Photo copyright: Auckland Zoo.
'Minister, meet the Spokesbird' - Sirocco
meets Associate Conservation Minister
Kate Wilkinson at Auckland Zoo

2009

In September 2009, Sirocco crossed Cook Strait to bring the wonderful world of the kākāpō to the people of Auckland, with a visit to Auckland Zoo to celebrate Conservation Week. The media coverage he garnered during this time earned him the nickname “Rockstar kākāpō”.

2006

In 2006, Sirocco had his first public engagement – a three month stint on Ulva Island as part of the Ulva Island Trust’s “Kākāpō Encounter”. Visitors could join a tour to see him in an enclosure in a forest setting for a brief period at dusk. It has been extremely popular, and he has returned there for regular stints since then. 

Conservation superstar

His superstar status was elevated further 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’ with presenter Mark Cawardine gained more than 700 000 views in just one week!

Spokesbird for conservation

In January 2010 Sirocco was been officially recognised as a conservation ambassador by the Prime Minister John Key. Launching New Zealand’s involvement in the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 Mr Key named Sirocco 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.

Fact file

Name: Sirocco (he was named after the hot desert wind of North Africa, continuing a theme of wind-oriented names - his mother's name is Zephyr).

Date of birth: 23 March 1997 (scientists believe kākāpō can live for around 60 years).

Sex: Male (although he has not shown any interest in mating with female kākāpō yet)

Favourite food: Sirocco enjoys special parrot pellets, corn, carrots, broccoli, kumara and macadamia nuts. Kākāpō are vegetarians and eat the leaves and fruit of native trees.

Fascinating fact: Sirocco taught us that kākāpō can swim. In 2007, when visiting Maud Island, he saw the ranger's family running and jumping off the jetty and decided to join them. He paddled back to shore, shook himself off and seemed completely unworried by this event.

Sirocco on Last Chance to See with Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine


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