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Words on a Wing

Date: 18 June 2010

Run over several months during 2010, this project encouraged people throughout New Zealand to write messages about biodiversity on cardboard feathers and attach them to a giant kākāpō.

Two giant birds, made out of steel and mesh, were made by the Department of Conservation to help celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity 2010.

Children cluster around the giant mesh kākāpō set up in the atrium entrance of Auckland Museum. Photo: Amos Chapple.
Children cluster around the giant kākāpō

The kākāpō were unveiled on International Day of Biodiversity (22 May 2010) – one at the Wellington Zoo and the other at the Auckland Museum.

The two giant kākāpō visited schools, museums and zoos collecting messages from young people about why biodiversity matters, what they want world leaders to do about its loss, and what they are doing themselves.

Naming competitions were held and the birds were named ‘Kiri te Kākāpō’ by Verran Primary School and ‘Mātārere’ by a fan in Norway.

Close up of the messages attached to the tail of the giant kākāpō. Photo: Amos Chapple.
Close up of the messages

What happened to the messages?

The giant kākāpō from Auckland – Kiri te Kākāpō – was flown to Japan where she became a star attraction at the 10th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya (October 18-29 2010).

Kiri and her plumage of messages was the heart of DOC’s display at the CBD’s fair showing the best examples from around the world of International Year of Biodiversity education and awareness activities.

Andrew Bignell (DOC) presents Dr Djoghlaf with a poster made by Auckland’s Albany Primary School pupils at the 10th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. Photo: Nan Woonton/SPREP.
Andrew Bignell (DOC) presents Dr Djoghlaf
with a poster made by Auckland’s Albany
Primary School pupils

On Thursday October 21, the bird took centre stage at a special ceremony in which the CBD’s executive secretary Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf accepted a selection of the more than 20,000 messages New Zealanders have composed.

Dr Djoghlaf was presented with a beautiful kākāpō poster made for the Words on a Wing action by Auckland’s Albany Primary School year 3 and 4 pupils.

Clearly taken with Kiri, Dr Djoghlaf compared the kākāpō to a carrier pigeon bringing the world’s pleas to the meeting. He used quotes from the feather messages in his speech to Ministers and gave Kiri pride of place at a formal Ministerial reception.

Dr Djoghlaf also took the Albany Primary School poster with him when he returned to the Secretariat's base in Montreal.

So, how did a flightless parrot make it all the way to Japan? Happily the wonderful team at Air NZ came to the rescue. They organised for Kiri to arrive in Nagoya in good time and in excellent nick.


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