When one of the presenters on the Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q! television show started talking about a kakapo in New Zealand who had his own Twitter account, but could not recall the account name, our team in Japan grabbed the opportunity to help.
TNZ Japan sent out a tweet introducing @Spokesbird: "Looks like Sirocco is hooked on Twitter and Facebook! He said he wants a smart phone too, but the screen doesn't work with his claws. There are only 124 kakapo alive today, and for Sirocco, every connection is an important one."
Within a few hours this tweet had generated over 500 retweets and gained Sirocco the kakapo over 2,000 new followers, all from Japan. Subsequent tweets about New Zealand's native fauna and flora, as well as appeals to teach Sirocco Japanese, also proved popular with fans young and old.
One of the most popular tweets was when Sirocco tweeted:
日本まで飛んで皆さんに会いに行きたいけど、実は僕、世界で唯一飛べないオウムなんだよ(´･ ω･`)ｼｮﾎﾞｰﾝ。みんながNZまで会いに来てくれたら嬉しいな！ 9/6～10/6 南島ダニーデンのオロコヌイ・エコサンクチュアリで僕と会えるよ。
Which translated is:
"I'd love to fly over and visit you all in Japan, but I can't because I'm the world's only flightless parrot [sad face]. I'd love it if you came to see me though. I'll be at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin from Sept 9 till Oct 6."
The New Zealand parrot shot to fame in 2009 off the back of the BBC's 'Last Chance to See' programme, when Sirocco attempted to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine's head. Footage of this event generated more than half a million hits on YouTube and had social network sites buzzing.
In January 2010 Sirocco was officially recognised as a conservation ambassador by the Prime Minister John Key, who named the parrot the "Official Spokesbird for Conservation". Mr Key commented on Sirocco's "worldwide fan base" who "hang on every squawk that comes out of his beak" and said Sirocco would focus attention on the plight of endangered species.
Sirocco will be on show from 6 Sept - 6 Oct at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin and bookings from Japan are already coming in, with one fan coming back to see Sirocco after visiting him two years ago.
Both the original BBC programme 'Last Chance to See' and the Japanese visit from 'Sekai no Hatemade Itte Q!' were supported by Tourism New Zealand's international media programme, reinforcing that key messages from these visits have impact beyond just their in market on air screenings.
Read more about Tourism New Zealand's marketing activity in Japan here.