More Kiwis may get chance to see kakapo

BY SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 13:08 17/06/2009
NZPA
HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU: One of the 11 rare Kakapo chicks.

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Sirocco the kakapo could soon be living the life of a rock star, with the Department of Conservation considering a nationwide tour for the famous bird.

The friendly kakapo is used to human contact after starring in the Ulva Island Kakapo Encounter, which gives the public a chance to see the bird in its natural environment.

However, while 12 year-old Sirocco has been a hit with people, he has failed to co-operate in the breeding programme.

Kakapo Recovery Team leader Diedre Vercoe said Sirocco had his last chance in the programme in spring but had failed to impress. "We thought because he was quite friendly ... we thought `here's a really good opportunity and he would be quite a frequent donator' but he's all talk."

Sirocco would remain on Codfish Island until August, when he would move to Ulva island for a month for this year's encounter. After that his role would probably change, with several ideas being discussed, including a national trip.

"We've decided his main purpose from this point on is going to be for advocacy ... one idea that's been mooted is that he ... visits a few places around the country so different people can see him."

Previously, kakapo have been able to be viewed only at open days in Invercargill, Nelson and at the encounter experience on Ulva Island.

The department was feeling more comfortable about the idea of the trip after a fantastic breeding season, with 33 chicks surviving, bringing the total number of kakapo to 124, Ms Vercoe said.

This meant there were now birds with genetic similarities compared to the past, when every bird was absolutely crucial to the breeding programme, she said.

This year, the chicks were moved to Invercargill to be hand-raised because of a lack of rimu fruit on the island. All but eight had now been moved back to Codfish Island and four older male birds had been removed to Anchor Island as they were hanging around nests and "potentially going to cause problems", she said.

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- The Southland Times

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