Date: 20 October 2009
Proving size isn’t everything, the critically endangered kākāpō population has shown their combined pulling power can draw people in from all over the world, after a Youtube video featuring the now famous Sirocco the kākāpō received more than one million hits this weekend.
After his starring performance in the BBC’s hit series “Last Chance to See” featuring Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine, Sirocco the kākāpō has received a huge online following in the UK and beyond.
“Sirocco has always been a bit of a ‘character’ and has always proved to be very popular with the public who have seen him at special displays,” said Department of Conservation media advisor Nic Vallance.
“But this response is like nothing we’ve ever experienced. His 4000 ‘friends’ on his Facebook page are posting messages of support for kākāpō and particularly the rangers who look after them.”
To celebrate the public reaction to kākāpō after Sirocco featured on “Last Chance to See” the Department of Conservation created a Twitter account for him so regular updates could be posted about kākāpō conservation and the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.
“He has more than 2000 Twitter followers who regularly ask questions about kākāpō, conservation in New Zealand, or send images of their own creations that have been inspired by kākāpō,” said Vallance.
The Department of Conservation are very new to social media – but it appears the use of blogs, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook has resulted in a genuine connection between people around the world and New Zealand’s precious natural heritage – in particular the plight of the critically endangered kākāpō. This connection has been a tangible one too, explains Vallance.
“People have been generous not only with their time but their money in supporting the Kākāpō Recovery Programme. Donations have reached more than three thousand dollars in the past week alone.”
“Other individuals and organisations from overseas have been creating jewellery, or selling images inspired by kākāpō, to raise money towards kākāpō recovery.”
One company in particular is selling t-shirts and other merchandise with a kākāpō cartoon featured on its products, with thirty per cent of the price going to the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.
The Department of Conservation could not be more pleased both with the ongoing online advocacy of one of our most endangered native birds.
“We have 33 extra kākāpō mouths to feed now, as a result of this year’s excellent breeding season,” said Vallance.
“It’s great to know that people here and all over the world think that our wildlife is precious and worth learning more about – one million viewers can’t be wrong,” she said.
The show “Last Chance to See” is a remake of the series that the late Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine recorded for radio and published a book on in 1990.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Spokesbird for regular updates.
DOC website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/sirocco
Sirocco is one of only 124 kākāpō remaining in the world. He was hand-raised 12 years ago due to having a respiratory infection as a chick. As he was hand-raised in the absence of other kākāpō he has become imprinted on humans. This means he has a valuable role to play in terms of advocacy for kākāpō and work of the kākāpō Recovery Programme.
This year, beyond all expectations, 33 chicks survived on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou – taking the kākāpō population past the 100-mark for the first time in decades. Twenty-six of the kākāpō chicks had to be captive-reared in Invercargill, due to a lack of natural food on the island. All 33 chicks are now surviving on their own in the wild.
More than 100 volunteers each contributed two week’s worth of their time to kākāpō recovery this summer over a period of 3 months. This time added up to 4.2 year’s of volunteer person-hours.
Thirty-six chicks hatched in total. Three chicks died, seven remained on the island with their mothers. The sex ratio of the 33 chicks is 20 males, 13 females.
Conservation in partnership
DOC’s kākāpō recovery work is actively supported by a partnership involving Rio Tinto Alcan NZ, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Forest & Bird.
First signed over 20 years ago, the agreement is one of DOC’s longest running conservation partnerships and has already injected over $3 million towards breeding programmes and predator proof sanctuaries for the flightless parrot.
Its aim is to establish at least one self sustaining unmanaged population of kākāpō in a protected habitat and to establish two or more other populations which may require ongoing management.
Earlier this year the partnership confirmed the population of threatened birds had cracked through the 100 mark – a crucial milestone and more than double the number of birds alive a little over a decade ago.