Alfie, Sirocco and a not so bird-brained philosophy
Alfie here; I’ve just caught up again with Sirocco for a photo shoot and interview just before he began another evening’s round of parties at his plush Zealandia hotel (he’s only at Zealandia for another week before he heads down south to Orokunu).
Sirocco has been described as a kākāpō who thinks he’s human, a conservation ambassador for his species, and a media superstar. He has a team of human assistants, enjoys a hectic social life, and has almost 20,000 Facebook likes.
So although we are both related to the same ancient parrots, and as endangered birds have a lot in common, we differ in some significant ways too.
Sirocco is the Official Spokesbird for Conservation, appointed by the Prime Minister in 2010. I’m the unofficial spokesbird, for some kākā in Zealandia, unofficially appointed … well, about the same time.
He flies Business Class, in his own compartment, across all of New Zealand. I fly … Class: Aves, around the valley mostly.
I was a little apprehensive about interviewing such an internationally famous figure, but he quickly put me at ease. Although he loves mixing and mingling, when he looks you in the eye, he gives you his full attention. It’s as if, for the moment he meets you, there’s just you and he there. Captured nicely with my Nestormatic, I hope you’ll agree.
I asked him what it meant to be a bird that thinks he is human, but he just laughed his skraarky laugh and replied, “… or maybe a human who thinks he is a bird. What’s that all about Alfie?”
I quickly changed tack and asked him what he had learnt from his time as Official Spokesbird. He paused, deep in thought, and then said quietly:
“Alfie, we are very close to the edge of extinction. We’re going to keep needing help to ensure we survive. We need to focus on that which unites us, not that which divides us. That’s all there is.”
I nodded and replied. “That’s great advice Sirocco; we parrots should look after each other.” He seemed to smile, made as if to say something, but then beaked his way down to the ground and hopped away.
In the fading light, I flew off towards the upper dam, gaining height, looking down on sanctuary shags returning to the lake from the sea, hearing the evening songs of the birds of Zealandia, and further afield, the sound of a dog barking, and the hum of traffic over the city, as everyone in their own way prepared for nightfall.
And quite suddenly I realised what that wise old bird had really meant.
Sirocco at Zealandia. Photo by Alfred Kākā (main image).