Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kakapo not Kickapoo

I first heard of this highly endangered flightless parrot of New Zealand when I read Douglas Adam & Mark Carwardine's book "Last Chance to See", courtesy of Ria.

Recently I discovered this blog, "Another chance to see" which follows up on the book that was written in the 80s. In the book, the two authors goes around the world looking for endangered animals and Adams writes about their peril and circumstances in his usual wit that makes it more poignant at points.

When Douglas and Mark visited Stewart Island and Codfish Island of NZ in the 80s, the kakapo were seriously endangered because as endemic island species, they are totally defenceless. They are just like the birds of Mauritius, the dodo being one of the famous examples. As time went by, dogs were seriously endangering the species and they were hardly mating. Yes, dogs. Ironically, you would also need a kakapo-tracking dog to find a kakapo.

Anyways, the good news is, of recent years, their species has seen some increase (like from 60+ to 86). Still under 100 unfortunately. Yes, in the world.

From the blog, I learnt that now there is an opportunity to actually 'encounter' a kakapo. You see, even when they were writing the book and doing a series for BBC Radio at the same time, they almost couldn't get permission to see the birds! They are HIGHLY protected. No outsiders at all. This is to protect them from any disturbances, as they are so sensitive that the littlest thing will upset any mating chances. We won't even get into how these birds mate. It's too convoluted and painful just to think about. Let's just say it's part of the reason why they are almost extinct.

Photo of Sirocco, taken from Ulva Trust, by Don Merton who was mentioned in the book as well!

So there is this one male, named Sirocco, who is hand-raised, "human friendly" and most importantly, NOT BREEDING, who have been taken out of the conservation area and will be in an enclosure to be observed by humans. Or really, is it him observing you?

"The encounter will be very much on Sirocco's terms, but given his consistant fascination with people, we are hoping he will find the experiance as enjoyable as you do."

Of course there are a lot of regulations, rules and control. The birds are nocturnal so you only get one chance a night when sirocco's nanny comes to feed him.

This chance of a life time is only from August to October 2006. Chances of me seeing Sirocco? None. First there's the cost of going to New Zealand, then the cost of going to Stewart island, then from there a flight or ferry to Halfmoon Bay and to Ulva Island! But apparently lots of people from UK and Japan have already booked their trip. Of course did I mention that one view is $80? We haven't even talked about accomodations in sub-antartic conditions. Still, it's cheap for a chance of a lifetime, isnt it? Besides, it IS for a good cause. Just that I would never have even a last chance to see.

Of course, let's not forget the usual rule of visiting NZ, and more critically essential to remember on these ecologically fragile islands. No rats mice and pests. No foreign soil and seeds and potentially invasive exotic species. Bring your rubbish out with you and NO DOGS!

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