Regular readers of my blog will know that I really do love my wildlife. And here in NZ, that primarily means birds.
One of the rarest birds here in NZ is the Kakapo. There are just over 130 of them left in the world, and are all on two colony-islands off the coast of New Zealand. They are flightless, nocturnal parrots, and are incredibly engaging, intelligent and full of personality.
Viewers of the BBC Natural History Show 'Last Chance to See' (Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine following in the footsteps of the radio show of the same name which Carwardine and Douglas Adams did 20 years previously) will remember the episode of their encounter with Sirocco, a male Kakapo, who, after being nursed through an illness as a young chick, imprinted on humans, and now is not interested in other kakapo at all.
For those who haven't seen it, this is the relevant clip (the title says it all!):
Because Sirocco really doesn't seem to find other kakapo attractive (he even has his booming bowl by the pathway between the conservation volunteers' sleeping quarters and the outside loo!), he is now the spokesbird for the conservation programme, and he is currently "on tour."
He's spending a month at Zealandia, and John and I went to see him last week. Sadly, because he is nocturnal, they had to have dim lighting; good enough for us to see him, but we weren't allowed to use flash on the camera, which meant that I didn't get that many photos which weren't either blurred or black.
However, if Long John Silver had had a kakapo as his parrot, I suspect that he might not have been taken as seriously:
He is just as engaging in 'real life', constantly hunting for the next macademia nut. His handler was in the enclosure to talk about him and to introduce him to his visitors; she is an excellent show-woman, and was able to give a fascinating talk about Sirocco and the kakapo in general. His enclosure has a live stream from the web cam thanks to Three News. It's only available from 8.30 pm NZ time, probably running till about 10.30-11pm (I know that my colleague had to change the time that he was going to visit because poor Sirocco isn't getting any sleep - Zealandia is just too noisy with all the birdsong during the day!)
It was a fantastic evening - hopefully not a 'Last Chance to See' (Kakapo live for 80 years naturally), and well worth the visit.