Saturday, 23 July 2011

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

By Sue Hensley

Orokonui has been favoured by two visiting VIPs and a third is due in
September.

First was the internationally acclaimed scientist Jane Goodall. Her lecture
at the Otago University was inspiring and covered not just her
groundbreaking research with chimpanzees, but development of grass roots
programmes ensuring the long term sustainability of populations of both
chimps and local people as well as habitat. Field work remains important to
her and while at Orokonui she met with conservation manager Elton Smith
about the Ecosanctuary project and with Kakapo recovery team members about
their work.

Another well known name Lucy Lawless (Xena Warrior Princess), now a
Greenpeace ambassador, also came on a mission to find out about the work at
Orokonui and her remarks can be seen in the visitor's book. Lucy's sharp
vision spied a jewelled gecko and a saddleback on her walk inside the fence
(Elton's expertise perhaps helped a little!).

The third and again internationally renowned visitor, mostly for his bad
behavior with Stephen Fry and screened on YouTube, is Sirocco. He will be
staying at Orokonui during September and will hold regular audiences
for his adoring public. A special viewing pen, living pen and food
preparation facilities are being constructed for this very special kakapo.
Once on the brink of extinction these birds now number 131. The 14-year old
Sirocco was hand raised and became imprinted on humans. He has shown no sign
of interest in the ladies and has become instead an ambassador for kakapo
conservation. He totally believes he is a person and enjoys interacting with
groups.

Species that have been reintroduced appear to be holding on so far with
field workers regularly seeing robins and visitors seeing lots of sign of
kiwi probe holes and scat. A couple of young (all dark) saddleback seem to
be staying in the top area and are also occasionally seen by visitors.

News and events such as night tours, Sirocco tours, mini film festivals and
social/ band evenings can be found on www.orokonui.org.nz and facebook.

The Visitor Centre is open daily 9.30am – 4.30pm with the cafe open 10am – 4pm.

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