Frisky kakapo romps to fame

23:31, Oct 25 2009
HEAVY NECKING: Sirocco the kakapo tries to mate with  Mark Carwardine.
HEAVY NECKING: Sirocco the kakapo tries to mate with Mark Carwardine.

A frisky New Zealand parrot has been catapulted to international stardom after attempting to mate with the back of a television presenter's head.

Sirocco, the critically endangered kakapo, became unusually affectionate with British zoologist Mark Carwardine during the filming of a BBC series on endangered animals.

Since airing in Britain this week, the clip has travelled around the world – getting more than 650,000 views on You Tube and a mention in the United States, on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.

British tabloid The Sun has also written of the "romp".

Sirocco's friends on Facebook have taken off, from 600 to 2500, and the flightless parrot now has more than 1500 followers on the aptly named Twitter website.

"You can't buy the publicity that has come out of Sirocco's amorous attentions," Department of Conservation spokeswoman Nic Vallance said.


Footage from the BBC show, Last Chance To See, shows the playful parrot sidestepping Carwardine's camera before digging his claws into the prone presenter's neck and beating the writer and photographer's face repeatedly with his wings.

Co-presenter Stephen Fry delightedly quips: "You're being shagged by a rare parrot."

The comic lines stop briefly when it's clear Carwardine is hurt.

Once the bird is removed by a Department of Conservation worker, actor Fry makes a tongue-in-cheek announcement that viewers have witnessed a TV first.

"You've seen Mark Carwardine, who has devoted his life to conserving animals, actually taking an active part in the conservation and breeding of a whole new generation of a whole new species," Fry adds.

Watch the video:

Vallance was apprehensive about reaction to the footage, hoping the rare bird's plight would not be seen as a joke.

But she had been overwhelmed by the support.

"New Zealand has a lot of birds – it doesn't have elephants, lions, tigers or bears – we have something that people around the world think is fascinating and worth protecting," she said.

The coverage had been "unprecedented" for an endangered New Zealand species, she said.

Kakapo are the world's rarest, largest and, according to some, "strangest" parrots.

Sirocco, who is 12, is particularly gregarious.

This is because he was raised by humans.

There are only 124 of the birds left, which live exclusively on two offshore islands: Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) near Stewart Island, and Anchor Island in Fiordland.

When Last Chance To See was made 20 years ago – featuring writer Douglas Adams and Carwardine – there were only 40.

The Press