Sirocco enamours crowds at Maungatautari
'He's such a cool dude'AARON LEAMAN
It was hard to know who was more enamoured as Sirocco the kakapo peered intently through the glass at six-year-old Lily Bayes.
"I think he's in love with Lily," explained one child.
"He's such a cool dude, I want to hug him," chimed another.
There was little doubt of Sirocco's crowd-pulling ability as more than 40 students, teachers and parents from Hora Hora Primary School visited Maungatautari mountain last night for a glimpse of the world-famous nocturnal parrot.
Sirocco is being hosted by the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust in a purpose-built outdoor enclosure.
Bird's eye view: Conservation Department ranger Alisha Sherriff hand feeds Sirocco the kakapo to the delight of Hora Hora Primary School teacher Joanne Synge and students Maia Johannas, six, and Emanuele Zanoli, 12. Photo: Peter Drury
As the group peered through the glass into the low-lit enclosure, Sirocco proved the consummate entertainer, hoping nonchalantly onto a branch before letting out a welcoming screech.
"He's saying hello," Conservation Department ranger Alisha Sherriff explained.
She said Sirocco displayed best when he could see his audience and appeared particularly attracted to children.
Positioning himself against the glass, Sirocco seemed content to nibble on seeds and study the little faces staring back at him.
"He's wonderful," Lily whispered.
"We've learnt about him at school and he's very special."
During the 20-minute showing, feathers and a container of Sirocco's droppings were passed around the group and drew inquisitive whiffs from the children.
"I think his feathers smell like kiwifruit," Lily concluded.
Ten-year-old Tayla Cook wasn't so sure.
"They smell old, almost like rotten apples or something."
Hora Hora Primary School principal Mike Budd said the school had a strong connection to Maungatautari mountain and students were eager to see Sirocco.
"This is really our backdoor and the mountain is part of our school in a way. The children were all excited by Sirocco's visit."
Miss Sherriff said Sirocco's stay helped raise people's awareness of the kakapo's plight.
Only 125 kakapo exist today.
"It's a chance for people to see the kakapo up close and personal and the reaction has been really positive," she said.
"Most people go away buzzing."
Sirocco has put on 520 grams since arriving on the mountain three weeks ago and now weighs 2.52 kgs.
Miss Sherriff, on her second tour with Sirocco, said the 15-year-old parrot was unique among kakapo in that he loved human company.
"He's the exception."
■ Sirocco will be on display until September 26. Adult tickets cost $45, child A (aged 6 to 15) $22.50, child B (aged 4 to 5) free. Family of two adults and two children: $115. For more information visit maungatrust.org.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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