Sirocco (parrot)

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Sirocco
Sirocco through the window.jpg
Sirocco in 2010
SpeciesStrigops habroptilus
SexMale
Hatched (1997-03-23) 23 March 1997 (age 23)
Codfish Island, New Zealand
Nation fromNew Zealand
OccupationOfficial Spokesbird for Conservation
Known forAttempting to mate with Mark Carwardine on BBC series Last Chance to See
Ambassador for his species and for conservation
Parent(s)Zephyr (mother)
Felix (father)
biography on DoC website

Sirocco (hatched 23 March 1997) is a kakapo, a large, flightless, nocturnal parrot, and one of the 209[1] remaining kakapo in the world. He achieved individual fame following an incident on the BBC television series Last Chance to See in which he attempted to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine. Subsequent featuring of the incident on television channels around the world and on YouTube resulted in Sirocco becoming internationally known. In his home country of New Zealand, Sirocco has attracted thousands of people during "personal" appearances, and in January 2010 was given the title of Official Spokesbird for Conservation by Prime Minister John Key. In this role, Sirocco helps advocate for conservation through human intermediaries on social media sites and blogs.

Biography[edit]

Sirocco guards the hut during the 2008 breeding season.

Sirocco was hatched on 23 March 1997 on the island bird sanctuary of Codfish Island off the west coast of Stewart Island, south of the New Zealand mainland. At three weeks old he suffered a respiratory illness, which led to him being removed from the care of his mother and hand-raised by Department of Conservation rangers.[2]

Having been raised away from other kakapo, this led to his being imprinted on humans instead of on his mother. As an older bird, he still would not associate with other kakapo. This extends to the mating ritual of 'booming': Sirocco booms in the presence of humans, rather than female kakapo. Sirocco is therefore seen as unlikely to be successful at breeding. However, his affinity to human beings means he has become an effective advocate for the kakapo species.[2]

As Codfish Island, a protected sanctuary, is closed to the public, Sirocco spends much time travelling away from his home. Since 2006 he has regularly appeared on Ulva Island as part of a 'kakapo encounter';[3] in September 2009 he travelled to Auckland Zoo, where he was visited by thousands of people.[4] Sirocco appeared at Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in October 2011 and at Maungatautari Ecological Island in 2012. In 2015, he visited Zealandia again for another six-week residence.[5]

Sirocco's radio transmitter went offline in late 2016 or early 2017. For months the team of scientists tasked with routine health checks conducted periodic searches for him using trained English Setters.[6] They issued a public statement that Sirocco's whereabouts were unknown on 23 March 2017, his 20th "hatchday" .[5] On 8 February 2018, a release from the Department of Conservation announced that Sirocco had been found and fitted with a new transmitter.[7]

Sirocco's preference for head-mating and resistance to massage techniques has made it difficult to collect his semen. Scientists who work with him designed an "ejaculation helmet" for volunteers to wear while he attempted to mate with their heads. The dimpled, rubber headgear was ineffective due to the duration of the kakapo's mating period and was later donated to the Te Papa museum in Wellington.[6]

Last Chance to See incident[edit]

In 2009, zoologist Mark Carwardine and television presenter Stephen Fry visited Codfish Island as part of the TV series Last Chance to See, focusing on endangered species around the world.[8] While they were filming Sirocco, the bird hopped onto Carwardine's head and attempted to mate with him. The scene itself and Fry's commentary, "Sorry, but this is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. You are being shagged by a rare parrot", proved an instant television hit, being featured on news broadcasts around the world.[9]

A video of the incident was uploaded to YouTube,[10] where it received more than 700,000 views in the first week; as of July 2020, the clip had been viewed over 16.1 million times. Sirocco's Facebook page and Twitter account, set up after the screening, instantly attracted thousands of followers.[11]

Other media appearances[edit]

Indian wildlife filmmaker Ashwika Kapur's short "rags-to-riches" documentary Sirocco – How a Dud Became a Stud is based on his life and won the Wildscreen Panda Award in 2014.[12]

Spokesbird[edit]

Sirocco's fame, and awareness that the television incident had massively raised the profile of kakapo around the world, led to an unusual government appointment for the bird in January 2010.[6]

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key appointed Sirocco as Official Spokesbird for Conservation, to coincide with 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity.[13] Key commented "He's a very media savvy bird, he's got a worldwide fan base – they hang on every squawk that comes out of his beak. He'll be a great official spokesbird and a great ambassador for New Zealand."[14]

While tongue-in-cheek, the appointment showed awareness of the ability of Sirocco, through his television and social network presence, to attract and engage with people around the world, thus highlighting the plight of the still-endangered kakapo.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kākāpō Recovery". NZ DoC Kākāpō Recovery page. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Kākāpō Recovery -Kākāpō Recovery". Kakaporecovery.org.nz. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Kākāpō Recovery -Kākāpō Recovery". Kakaporecovery.org.nz. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  4. ^ Gibson, Eloise (12 September 2009). "Comical kakapo has guest spot at Auckland zoo". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Search for a star: where is Sirocco, rare parrot and comedy genius?". The Guardian. 23 March 2017. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d Voon, Claire (13 April 2017). "Seduced By a Rare Parrot". Smithsonian Magazine.
  7. ^ "Sirocco found". doc.govt.nz. 8 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Williams, David (9 October 2009). "Frisky kakapo romps to fame". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Shagged by a rare parrot – Last Chance To See – BBC Two". YouTube. BBC. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Sirocco the kakapo shoots to fame". Television New Zealand. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  12. ^ Ians (25 October 2014). "India gets her youngest Green Oscar winner". India Today. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Prime Minister Appoints 'Spokesbird' for Conservation". Tourism New Zealand. 29 January 2010. Archived from the original on 10 February 2010.
  14. ^ Pilcher, Helen (2020). Life Changing: How Humans are Altering Life on Earth. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4729-5673-6.

External links[edit]