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Sirocco the kākāpō an online phenomenon

Sirocco the kākāpō an online phenomenon

07 October 2009

This week’s screening of the BBC’s “Last Chance to See” programme featuring New Zealand’s own conservation ambassador Sirocco the kākāpō, has catapulted kākāpō recovery into the international spotlight.

Department of Conservation staff have been amazed by the response that viewers of the “Last Chance to See” programme, starring Stephen Fry and Mark Cawardine, has evoked from the British public.

“His Facebook page alone jumped from 600 friends to over 2000 friends in the 48 hours following the broadcast of the kākāpō episode of “Last Chance to See”,” said Sirocco’s media advisor Nic Vallance from the Department of Conservation.

“And the Youtube clip of him getting ‘up close and personal’ with presenter Mark Cawardine has resulted in well over half a million hits.”

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.

Many of the comments posted on Sirocco’s rapidly growing Facebook page send words of support and encouragement to kākāpō recovery as well as many offers of donations to continue to increase the survival of the kākāpō.

“The international interest in kākāpō is just fantastic,” said Vallance.

“It reminds us that while we may not have megafauna such as lions, tigers or bears in New Zealand – our charismatic, unique and special wildlife is of great interest to people around the world.”

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To celebrate the interest in Sirocco the kākāpō, the Department of Conservation have set up a Twitter account for him – which will give regular updates on the work of the kākāpō recovery programme to his online followers.

“We encourage everyone to sign up to ‘follow’ Sirocco’s updates on Twitter,” said Vallance.

“This is a fantastic way for us to bring news and updates of one of our iconic native birds to anyone who’s interested in conservation in New Zealand.”

Sirocco’s first Tweet highlighted the kākāpō’s point of difference from other birds.

“Kākāpō don’t tweet, we skraaaaaark,” the popular parrot said.

You can follow Sirocco at http://www.twitter.com/SiroccoKakapo for regular updates.

Background

Sirocco is one of only 124 kakapo remaining in the world. He was hand-raised twelve years ago due to having a respiratory infection as a chick. As he was hand-raised in the absence of other kakapo he has become imprinted on humans. This means he has a valuable role to play in terms of advocacy for kakapo and work of the kakapo recovery programme.

This year, beyond all expectations, 33 chicks survived on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou – taking the kakapo population past the 100-mark for the first time in decades. Twenty-six of the kakapo 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 kakapo recovery this summer over a period of 3 months. This time added up to 4.2 year’s of volunteer person-hours.

36 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 twenty 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.

Links of interest:

http://www.twitter.com/SiroccoKakapo (case sensitive)

www.kakaporecovery.org.nz

http://blog.doc.govt.nz/2009/09/03/rockstar-kakapo/

Youtube video from “Last Chance to See” programme by BBC:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T1vfsHYiKY

ENDS

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