Date: 13 August 2018
In his first public appearance since 2014, Sirocco will be visiting Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin from 9 - 29 September 2018.
DOC Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki says the limelight-loving legend is an icon for conservation advocacy.
“Despite his unscheduled disappearance in 2016, we are thrilled to be able to bring Sirocco to the New Zealand public again,” Nicola Toki says.
With only 149 kākāpō in existence living on remote islands, opportunities to see kākāpō are very limited. Over the years, Sirocco has made appearances at predator free sanctuaries around New Zealand.
“Sirocco’s ease around people presents a unique opportunity for the public to get see one of these incredible birds,” Nicola Toki says.
“Most people are probably unaware that kākāpō were once found from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island, that early explorers reported shaking trees and having them tumble down like apples, and yet by 1992 there were just 50 left due to the onslaught of introduced predators such as rats and stoats.”
Because of a nasty respiratory illness as a chick, Sirocco was hand-reared by DOC rangers and imprinted on them. Now he seeks out human company and enjoys spending time in the public.
“His adventures and cheeky nature always remind us of the fantastic and quirky character of kākāpō, and our duty to find more places for them to thrive in the wild again.”
Sirocco, who recently celebrated his 21st birthday, first shot to fame following an encounter with zoologist Mark Carwardine, who was filming a BBC documentary Last Chance To See with British actor Stephen Fry.
In 2016, he went “off-grid” for 2 years after his transmitter failed, meaning rangers were unable to locate him in his Fiordland home.
A dedicated search at the beginning of 2018 re-located the famous parrot, and subsequent assessment has shown he’s still his regular, sociable self.
However, like any superstar, the public appearance will be entirely on his terms.
“Sirocco’s welfare is paramount so we have strict conditions in place to ensure he’s safe, happy and comfortable. Orokonui have a fantastic facility for hosting Sirocco, having done so in the past. We’ll have trained rangers watching him throughout the display and if there’s any indication he’s not enjoying the spotlight we’ll act quickly.”
Orokonui general manager Amanda Symon says the ecosanctuary is excited at the prospect of hosting Sirocco again.
“Our staff have been sprucing up Sirocco’s quarters in readiness for his arrival. His stay provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to meet a kākāpō, and Sirocco’s unique personality really shines through – he clearly enjoys catching up with his fans, especially children!”
Orokonui has hosted Sirocco twice before, with guided night tours selling out quickly on both occasions.
Kākāpō are a taonga species to Ngāi Tahu and a national treasure. DOC’s Kākāpō Recovery Programme, in partnership with Ngāi Tahu and with the support of national partner Meridian Energy, are working hard to bring them back from the brink.
Kākāpō Recovery Group Ngāi Tahu representative Tane Davis says it is gratifying to see Sirocco back after two years living in his natural environment.
“Kākāpō are a highly precious taonga to Ngāi Tahu iwi. Having Sirocco back on display, sharing himself with the public of Aotearoa, is an opportunity to enhance and share that significance and connection.”
With this summer shaping up to be the biggest kākāpō breeding season on record, DOC hopes to soon be facing the happy problem of having more kākāpō than kākāpō-friendly sites.
“While we love having Sirocco as our spokesbird, our ultimate goal is to one day have kākāpō roaming the landscape freely. To achieve that we need safe, predator-free habitat; which is why the Predator Free 2050 goal is so important,” Nicola Toki says.
“We would love for everyone to one day see kākāpō in the wild – to restore the heartbeat to the land.”
Sirocco will be at Orokonui for three weeks. This will be his only public appearance until at least 2020.
Tickets go sale on Wednesday 15 August and are available from Orokonui Ecosanctuary.
To find out how you can help restore kākāpō to the land, head to our Kākāpo Recovery page.
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