Sirocco the kākāpō conservation superstar
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Name: Sirocco (he was named after the hot desert wind of North Africa, continuing a theme of wind-related names – his mother's name is Zephyr)
Hatch date: 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: special parrot pellets, corn, carrots, broccoli, kumara and macadamia nuts (kākāpō are vegetarians and eat the leaves and fruit of native trees)
The kākāpō who thinks he's human
Sirocco had an uncertain start to life, suffering a respiratory illness at three weeks old while being reared by his mother, Zephyr. Subsequently, he became the first male kākāpō to be hand reared.
Sirocco was eventually deemed fit and ready to survive in the wild. He was released to roam the island, but the call of the wild wasn’t so loud for Sirocco. His intensive hand-rearing and lack of kākāpō company had led him to imprint on humans. He was more interested in us than his own kind and was unlikely to breed.
A natural advocate
We realised that Sirocco’s interest in people made him an ideal kākāpō ambassador, able to travel and meet people as no other kākāpō could. For the first time, people around New Zealand had a chance to meet a kākāpō.
Between 2005 and 2009, Sirocco toured to Ulva Island (a Stewart Island bird sanctuary) and Auckland Zoo. From the start, he proved to be an ideal bird for kākāpō advocacy and seemed to thrive on the attention.
Sirocco rocketed to fame in 2009 after his encounter with zoologist Mark Carwardine became a YouTube sensation. Carwardine was filming the BBC documentary Last Chance to See with British actor Stephen Fry. Footage showed a rather frisky Sirocco attempting to mate with Carwardine’s head as Fry laughed from the sidelines.
The below YouTube clip of Sirocco getting ‘up close and personal’ with presenter Mark Cawardine has had over 7 million views!
Spokesbird for conservation
In 2010, Prime Minister John Key launched New Zealand’s involvement in the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 and named Sirocco the "Official Spokesbird for Conservation".
He 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.
In September 2011, Sirocco stayed at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin, then moved on to ZEALANDIA in Wellington. More than 2,000 people had pre-booked tickets to see Sirocco in the capital.
In 2012, Sirocco was hosted at Maungatautari, near Hamilton. He visited ZEALANDIA again in 2013 and 2015, and Orokonui in 2013 and 2014.
For the hosts, the chance to display Sirocco is a huge commitment. A lot of work and money goes into ensuring his health and wellbeing are maintained. That includes following strict rules about how Sirocco is housed, handled and fed. Regular health checks and a designated minder ensure that Sirocco remains as well cared for on tour as any celebrity.
Between trips, he lives wild with other male kākāpō on a Fiordland Island.
To help Sirocco enjoy his experience more, we enlisted animal training expert Barbara Heidenreich to work on aspects of his behaviour on an ongoing basis.
During 2016, Sirocco’s transmitter failed. Five percent of kākāpō transmitters fail annually, and it often takes several years for a bird to be located. Fortunately, we found Sirocco safe and sound in 2018.
On the Conservation blog
Photo of the week: Sirocco the kākāpō
22 March 2016
To celebrate his 'hatch-day' today's photo of the week is everyone's favourite spokesbird, Sirocco the kākāpō.
Sirocco at Parliament
07 October 2014
The Kākāpō Recovery Programme turns 25 next year and, to celebrate, Sirocco the kākāpō—ambassador for his species and New Zealand's official Spokesbird for Conservation—partied at Parliament last night.
Superstar Sirocco’s Facebook milestone
17 September 2014
He’s better looking than Bieber, more charismatic than Clooney and he has some pretty hardcore admirers. Sirocco the kākāpō is our social media superstar and New Zealand’s Official Spokesbird for Conservation. Today he has reached an amazing milestone in his quest for world domination by reaching a massive 100,000 devoted fans on his Facebook page. This parrot is not just […]
Making Sirocco – The Film
29 June 2014
By Ashwika Kapur, Filmmaker I came to New Zealand in early 2013 to chase my childhood dream of obtaining a degree in Natural History Filmmaking so I could entertain and educate audiences through timeless wildlife stories from around the world. As part of my degree I had to make a film so I began scouting ideas, and among the […]
Sirocco gets a phyiscal
In 2011 Donna Williams was lucky enough to spend some time with Sirocco and his minder Karin on Ulva Island. Donna got up close and personal with the cheeky kākāpō , and watched as Karin carried out his daily health check.