Private kakapo viewing 'magic'

John Burke and Louise van de Vlierd, of Dunedin, hand-feed kakapo Sirocco at the Orokonui...
John Burke and Louise van de Vlierd, of Dunedin, hand-feed kakapo Sirocco at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin last night. Photo by Linda Robertson.

A once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a kakapo has two Dunedin residents wondering if they can top the experience.

John Burke and Louise van de Vlierd had 16-year-old kakapo Sirocco eating from their hands during a special visit to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary last night.

Sirocco is the only New Zealand Kakapo Recovery ambassador, and is uniquely fond of human company, having been hand-reared. The species is critically endangered.

Mr Burke, an Elm Wildlife Tours guide, won an online auction to meet Sirocco inside his temporary enclosure at Orokonui, where the kakapo arrived earlier this month.

Mr Burke paid $1050 for himself and Ms van de Vlierd, a ''good friend'', to undertake the ''experience of a lifetime''.

He kept the encounter a secret until the last minute, only telling Ms van de Vlierd they were going on a night tour to see the nocturnal kakapo.

Instead, they donned clean boots and overalls and, under the guidance of Errol Nye, from the Department of Conservation, they entered Sirocco's enclosure.

Nothing could wipe the smiles from their faces as they fed pumpkin seeds to the native parrot as the 3kg bird perched on their arms.

His musky scent, brilliant green feathers and cheeky personality captivated the wildlife enthusiasts.

''It was amazing, magic,'' Ms van de Vlierd said.

''It's one of those things you only get one chance in a lifetime to do, and is something to remember for the rest of our lives,'' Mr Burke said.

Sirocco will leave Orokonui on October 6 and return to the wild on Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds, where he spends about eight months of each year.

Money from the auction and tours to see Sirocco at Orokonui will be shared evenly between the ecosanctuary and the kakapo recovery programme.


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