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Prime Minister Appoints 'Spokesbird' for Conservation

Date Published: 29 January 2010

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New Zealand's celebrity parrot, Sirocco the kakapo, has been officially appointed as the world's first "spokesbird for conservation".

Sirocco shot to fame last year after his inappropriate actions during the BBC's Last Chance to See series, and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the notorious and rare bird will be a perfect conservation ambassador.

Sirocco - now 13-years-old - is one of just 124 kakapo left in the world. The flightless species is endemic to New Zealand.

John Key formally named Sirocco as official spokesbird during the launch of New Zealand's involvement in the International Year of Biodiversity, and in recognition of the famous kakapo's own celebrity status.

Sirocco's task will be to highlight New Zealand's endemic wildlife experiences and conservation work.

'Last Chance to See'

The kakapo's appearance with British media personality Stephen Fry on Last Chance to See featured an incident where Sirocco made an unusual mating attempt with presenter Mark Carwadine.

The quirky footage had more than half a million hits on YouTube, and sent social networking sites buzzing with comments from amused observers.

The result was a huge rise in the popularity of the rare species, and interest from people wanting to know more about New Zealand's unique native wildlife.

Prime Minister John Key said Sirocco's status made him an obvious choice for the role.

"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."

New Zealand's biodiversity

New Zealand Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said Sirocco could help raise awareness of New Zealand's unique biodiversity and the need to protect it.

"We're justifiably proud of our natural living space and our reputation as a destination where people can experience amazing wildlife, landscapes and wilderness.

"I have every confidence that Sirocco's natural charm and charisma will encourage people to become more engaged with conserving New Zealand's natural heritage,"  said Kate Wilkinson.

Spokesbird website

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and Tourism New Zealand have also unveiled a new website - www.spokesbird.com - that will help profile New Zealand's unique wildlife and plants to an international audience.

The website will allow people to interact with Sirocco and view his regular blog updates as well as videos, photographs and links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts. It also contains information about New Zealand and our other unique flora and fauna.

Tourism New Zealand's international offices will be working to gain exposure for Sirocco and his new role as 'spokesbird' in key outdoor, wildlife tourism and green living online communities, particularly in the UK, Northern Europe and US.

Visit www.spokesbird.com or watch more Sirocco videos on YouTube

Read more about Tourism New Zealand's International PR activity

Update: 2 Feb 2010
The UK's Daily Telegraph website was quick to pick up the news of Sirocco's appointment. A story headlined 'Parrot that tried to mate with Mark Carwardine is given government role' was a lead story on 1 February. It is currently the most-read story on the travel section of www.telegraph.co.uk (4.5 million monthly unique users).

Sirocco has also appeared on www.metro.co.uk (3.2 million monthly unique users).