Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year Everybody

Thanks to everyone who visited the site this year. I'm sorry for the lack of updates in recent weeks, but I've just been terribly busy and tired. I hope to do better in 2010.

A special thanks to Mark Carwardine, Stephen Fry and producer Tim Green, for bringing Last Chance To See back to the BBC. It was a truly splendid and spectacular series, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kakapo Artificial Insemination a 2009 Success

Paternity tests by the Department of Conservation have confirmed that two of the 33 Kakapo chicks hatched in 2009 were conceived after artificial insemination of the females. The Southland Times has the story.
DOC kakapo recovery manager Deidre Vercoe said infertility had been a big problem and this was a significant breakthrough.
Six female kakapo were artificially inseminated using different sperm storage techniques. Sperm collected and refrigerated for two to five hours before insemination was the most successful method, resulting in two female chicks.
2009 was such a fabulous year for the Kakapo, but it looks like 2010 won't be quite as prosperous.
There was little rimu fruit ripening this year and the birds were not expected to breed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mystery of Amazon Manatee Migration Solved

There's an interesting article on the BBC News site this week about the mystery of the Amazonian Manatee's migration habits.
Only in recent years did scientists find that the secretive aquatic mammal migrates from shallow to deep water.

Now researchers can reveal that the manatees make this perilous journey to avoid being exposed to attack by predators during the low-water season.

That means the species may be at greater risk than thought, say scientists, as migration and low water levels make them vulnerable to hunters.

The international team of researchers from Brazil and the UK publish their findings in the Journal of Zoology.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stephen Fry on Operation Rhino

On December 19th, four Northern White Rhino's were flown to Kenya. RedOrbit has one of the news items.
Dana Holeckova, director of the Dvur-Kralove zoo in central Czech Republic said, "We must offer them this last chance, in their natural environment in Africa."

There's only eight remaining Northern White rhinos in existence all living in captivity, six at Dvur-Kralove and two more at San Diego Zoo in the United States.
The four being returned, two males and two females, will be transferred by air on December 19th.
Stephen Fry has been travelling with them and has been Tweeting again...
Jambo! Just landed in Nairobi. Warm and sunny. More follows....

An hour away from rhinos arriving from Nairobi. Great excitement here at Ol Pejeta. Phone reception still dodgy tho.

Finally in land of signal. Rhino translocation went flawlessly, fantastically. So happy for Ol Pejeta, @FaunaFloraInt, Czech Rep zoo.

Landed. Despite the chill and damp of the old metrop it's good to be back. Operation Rhino fabulous success. Now let Christmas begin.
It seems Stephen has been down in Kenya following the relocation of the Czech Republic Northern White Rhinos.

Whether or not they've been filming a Last Chance To See special I haven't figured out yet. Too busy to check right now, what with all the snow we've been having. 23 inches in 24 hours this weekend...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Northern White Rhinos Returning to Africa?

Amid the belief that they are now extinct in the wild, the only Northern White Rhinos remaining are in zoos in the Czech Republic and San Diego. Now scientists are divided on whether to move forward with a plan to transfer four rhinos from the Czech Republic zoo to a wildlife reserve in Kenya. The proposal is detailed in full at the International Rhino Foundation site.
The IRF, SRI, and most parties agree:

* Wild populations of NWR are likely extinct in DRC and the Sudan
* The remaining eight individuals in captivity are not reproductively ideal
* Steps to preserve genetic material from the captive population are needed immediately
* Crossing NWR with SWR is the only remaining option

However, the IRF and SRI do not endorse the concept that the only way to succeed with this effort is to move the remaining animals to Africa.

Additional coverage at and TimesOfTheInternet. Having recently watched the related TV series episode this was interesting timing.
The hope of the NWR Conservation Project is that relocating the rhinos to a natural environment will stimulate breeding - and preserve critical genetic material by allowing NWR to breed with the far more numerous Southern white rhino. In addition, AI options are being explored.
Proponents acknowledge that while there is no way to predict whether or not moving the rhinos to Africa will result in successful breeding, they also point out that captive southern white rhinos do not have a strong record of reproduction in captivity - and require “wild supplements” from time to time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Video: Fry's Blue Whale Sighting Scream

Check out the moment where Stephen Fry sees a Blue Whale for the first time. BBC News has the video clip.
Stephen Fry can hardly contain his excitement when he catches sight of the mighty blue whale - the biggest creature known to have lived on earth - off Mexico's Baja peninsula.

The blue whale is almost as long as a Boeing 737 and needs so much food that, in terms of weight, it could eat a fully-grown African elephant every day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sirocco The Kakapo - Baby Pictures

As Sirocco and Mark's mating video surges past the 1 million views on YouTube, here's an album with some pictures of Sirocco when he just a chick.

According to TVNZ, Sirocco now has 4,000 Facebook friends and more than 2,000 followers on Twitter.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) spokeswoman Nic Vallance says it is great to know that people all over the world are interested in New Zealand's precious wildlife.

More than $3,000 has been donated towards the Kakapo Recovery Programme in the past week alone, thanks in large to Sirocco.
Donations can now be made using PayPal.
* $100 buys disease screening for one bird
* $250 buys a radio tracking aerial
* $1000 buys a portable incubator
* $1600 buys a radio-telemetry receiver
In TV news, reports that the series has been sold to a number of broadcasters worldwide, so keep an eye on your local listings.
Last Chance to See has been acquired by ABC (Australia), Sky (New Zealand), NRK (Norway) and UKTV (UK)
Once more for fun...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fry Makes Plea to Save Water Vole

Stephen Fry is backing a new plea by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to save the Cotswold water vole from extinction. BBC News has the story.
"We're particularly worried about the plight of the..enchanting water vole," said Mr Fry and Mark Carwardine, from wildlife programme Last Chance to See.
"We've just spent six months travelling the world in search of high profile endangered species, from kakapo to Komodo dragons," said Mr Fry and Mr Carwardine.

"But it's all too easy to forget that we have endangered species in our own country that need just as much help."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Extinction of the Baiji: China's White Dolphin

This Epoch Times article discusses the extinction of the Baiji, the Yangtze River Dolphin. It is desperately sad that since Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine tried to find the Baiji for the original radio series episode "Gone Fishing!", this beautiful creature has been declared extinct.
In 1998 there was an estimated total of only seven dolphins left. When the filling of the Three Gorges reservoir began in 2003, it seemed that the white dolphin was no more. While there were a few rare sightings at this time, the evidence was questionable.

When an expedition in search of living Yangtze dolphins began in November 2007, the results looked very grim. For seven months the Yangtze River was tracked with sophisticated equipment, including cameras and underwater microphones. But the once cheerful sounds of the talking dolphin were never heard. Nothing. The white dolphin had already left the world forever.
As it seemed pointless to return to China to try and find the Baiji, the new TV series instead turned its attention to the Blue Whale and visited the Sea of Cortez in Mexico for this Sunday's final episode.

However, in the first episode "Amazon Manatee", Mark and Stephen were able to spend time with the Amazon Pink River Dolphin or "Boto", and got some marvellous footage and photographs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blue Whales In Pictures

BBC News has this In Pictures feature on the Blue Whales, stars of the final episode of the Last Chance To See TV series, broadcast Sunday October 18th on BBC2.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What's Your Favourite New Zealand Bird?

Cast your vote at the annual Forest and Bird "Bird of the Year" poll. The Kakapo won in 2008, but this year's poll appears to feature many more birds.

Don't forget the Chatham Island Robin, which Don Merton saved from extinction during the early 1980s, with the population only included a single female.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kakapo and Carwardine Mating Video Nears 1 Million Hits

The video of Mark Carwardine being shagged by Sirocco the Kakapo is rapidly becoming a YouTube sensation, as it nears one million views. It has been uploaded to YouTube by the BBC, so I'm able to embed it below. Radio New Zealand reports that the Department of Conservation is delighted with the attention, as donations to the Kakapo Recovery Programme have gone through the roof, especially as donations can now be made using PayPal.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Clan of the Kakapo

#Kakapo Parrot documentary maker Scott Mouat, who has been filming their lives for many years, features in this 3News story. Jendy Harper presents the video report from last month.
[Scott's] been there for the big occasions, the new arrivals and the intimate moments.
Their life story would make a great reality show but Mouat has instead produced a stunning documentary like no other.
Scott's website about the production "Code of the Kakapo" doesn't have much detail at the moment, but we've previously posted the documentary trailer video. Here it is again.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Last Chance To See Event: Last Chance for Tickets

This month's Save The Rhino newsletter reminded us that there's only a few tickets left for this special event at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday October 27th. Presented by Save The Rhino, join Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine as they update us on their adventures filming and the experience of tracking species on the edge of extinction for the Last Chance To See TV series. The event starts at 7.30pm, and doors open at 6.30pm.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fry finds 'funniest ever' mating ritual

The BBC News site features a short video clip from the Kakapo episode of the TV series, with Mark Carwardine being royally rogered by Sirocco the Kakapo. Stephen Fry describes it as "one of the funniest things I've ever seen". I have to agree. Cigarette Mark?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mouse Lemur: 'one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen'

Check out this video clip of Stephen Fry encountering the "darling" Mouse Lemur, which he describes as 'one of the most beautiful animals he has ever seen'.

Last Chance To See the Aye-Aye?

Mark Carwardine has an article on the BBC Earth News site about the upcoming episode of the TV series about the Aye-Aye Lemur.
One of the many repercussions of Madagascar's coup, which took place in March 2009, has been a dramatic rise in criminal networks plundering the country's protected areas for precious hardwoods and wildlife.
the recent breakdown in law and order, and the unwise withdrawal of foreign aid agencies, has wiped the smile from many faces.

From a wildlife point of view, in particular, it has resulted in huge numbers of lemurs, including several endangered species, being captured for the pet trade or butchered for sale to restaurants.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stephen Fry on "Steve Wright in the Afternoon" (with Graham Norton)

Thanks to Dave Haddock again. He has pointed out that Stephen Fry appeared on the "Steve Wright in the Afternoon" show on BBC Radio 2 last Friday, talking to substitute DJ Graham Norton. At the time of writing there's still 3 days left to listen to the show. Stephen is on between 1hr 30m 50s - until 1hr 46m.

Sirocco the Kakapo Visits Auckland Zoo until September 23rd

Scoop has news that Sirocco the Kakapo is appearing at Auckland Zoo until September 23rd.
His visit is our way of celebrating the thousands of hours that volunteers, rangers, vets, scientists and sponsors have put into maximising the survival chances of kakapo over the last 30 years,” says DOC spokesperson Nic Vallance.

Sirocco, who has charmed the likes of famous English actor Stephen Fry with his gregarious personality, recently moved back home to Whenua Hou or Codfish Island after spending the summer on Pearl Island, south east of Stewart Island.
Tickets are very limited and pre-purchasing is essential.
Tickets (allocated for specific tour times) are $20 for adults, $10 for children (aged 4 – 15 years) or $50 for a family (2 adults, 2 children). To pre-purchase tickets phone the Auckland Zoo Information Centre (09) 360 3805. For further details about Sirocco and his visit,;, and

Titus "The Gorilla King" has Died

BBC News has reported that Rwanda is mourning its most famous mountain gorilla. The silverback Titus, known as 'The Gorilla King', has died at the age of 35.
He was the subject of a BBC documentary last year, and was studied by naturalists throughout his life - including US expert Dian Fossey."
"He was born on 24 August 1974 and has been observed closely by researchers throughout his entire life," a statement from the Rwandan national parks office said.

"Tragically, he succumbed to old age on September 14."

The life expectancy of a healthy gorilla is about 40.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Q & A with Mark Carwardine

The Ecologist is running an excellent interview with Mark Carwardine on his thoughts about the Last Chance To See TV series.
What do you hope the series will achieve?
I hope it will make a lot of people who wouldn't normally watch a wildlife series, let alone a conservation series take notice.

I think that by having Stephen on board who has such a big following, and making it a light hearted travelogue with a serious theme - I hope it will get a wide audience.

Twitter Feed now available

If Twitter is your preferred method of receiving new content, I'm happy to say that Another Chance To See is now on Twitter, and the posts are automatically getting published there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Audio: Excess Baggage with Stephen Fry

Tune in to BBC Radio 4's "Excess Baggage" (available worldwide online), on Saturday September 12th at 10a.m. to hear Stephen Fry discussing the making of the Last Chance To See TV series. The show will also be available to listen again after broadcast. It is also available as a free Podcast through RSS, iTunes and other services. This week's show also includes an interview with the legendary travel broadcaster Alan Whicker.
Stephen Fry is not a man who likes to rough it, but he is forced to do just that in visiting the remoter parts of the world to see some of the most endangered species. Sandi asks him whether seeing the aye-aye, the blue whale and the komodo dragon was really worthwhile - especially as it involved not just discomfort but seriously fracturing his arm.
And if you're quick, David Attenborough's "A Point of View" last week featured the story of the Dodo and other flightless birds.

Video: Stephen Fry 'face to face' with gorillas

The BBC News site has a short article on this week's episode 2 of the TV series. "Last Chance to See - Northern White Rhino" is broadcast on BBC Two at 8p.m., on 13 September 2009. The page also features a video of Stephen's trek up to see the Mountain Gorillas, which he describes as "worth every sobbing, gasping, aching step". For right now, the video is not geographically restricted and available worldwide. Enjoy.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Story of Last Chance To See (by David Haddock)

The story of Last Chance to See begins with Douglas Adams being telephoned by the World Wildlife Fund and asked to go to Madagascar and look for the rarest form of lemur then known - the Aye-Aye. He was to do this in the company of zoologist Mark Carwardine who would act as the expert foil to Douglas who would be writing about the trip. The trip took place in the Spring of 1985, and the photographer Alain le Garsmeur went along to provide the pictures, and Jane Belson who was later to be Douglas’s wife also joined the group.

The article duly appeared in the Observer Sunday Magazine (9th June 1985) with plenty of pictures of other lemurs, nice photogenic ones that were active during the day, like the Ring-tailed lemur shown on the cover, and the Sifaka lemur in the body of the article. However, much to everyone's surprise they did manage to capture the nocturnal Aye-Aye on film as well, and so a grainy picture of it was also published in the article. The aim of the project was to promote conservation in Madagascar, and to that end it was sponsored by Fiat, which donated a pound to the WWF for every person that called an advertised phone number.

Incidentally, Douglas used the expedition as the basis of a chatty ten-minute radio programme of him speaking over a background of wildlife sounds that was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 1st November 1985 under the title Natural Selection: In Search of the Aye-Aye. Douglas returned to the subject of the Aye-Aye, specifically the evolution of its distinctive middle finger, in a one-minute programme for a 1998 BBC2 series called Natural Selections, with his contribution broadcast on March 28th.

An account of the Madagascar trip, and how it led to the others, is given in the introductory chapter of Last Chance to See entitled Twig Technology. After successfully finding the Aye-Aye, Mark was telling Douglas about some of the many other endangered species and Douglas goes and gets his Filofax and says, “I've just got a couple of novels to write, but, er, what are you doing in 1988?” The preparation for these later trips is discussed in Neil Gaiman's book, Don't Panic: The Official Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion, published in 1988, and mentions three particular species that they planned to look for: the Kouprey, the Quetzal and the Kakapo. The last of these did make it into the final selection, but the Kouprey, an ox-like creature found in Vietnam and the Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, did not. Choosing where to go and what to see was somewhat haphazard with Mark and Douglas horse-trading over a map of the world about where they wanted to go and what they wanted to see. “The Congo? The Seychelles? Split the difference – Mauritius”, reported Gaiman's book, which also said that initial thoughts were to produce a television series, but the first place they asked about filming was in China and as the permit was going to cost £200,000 they quickly shelved that idea, and turned it into a radio series. The radio series was eventually funded by the advance on the book, with the authors paying the expenses of the BBC sound engineers that individually accompanied them: Gaynor Shutte and Chris Muir.

The various trips to search for the animals eventually took place in 1988 and 1989 after Douglas wrote the two Dirk Gently novels and Mark had to change all the arrangements because the books took a little longer than expected. The book of Last Chance to See is still in print, but the full radio series seems only been to have been broadcast in the UK in October / November 1989, with a repeat of four of the six episodes the next year. A clip from the show made the prestigious Pick of the Year BBC radio selection. The full set of episodes did receive an airing in Australia in 2001, and the Fruit Bat episode was included in the three-hour tribute to Adams broadcast on BBC7 in 2003. There are clips from each episode on the triple CD package, Douglas Adams at the BBC.

Last Chance to See – Radio Episode Guide
Prelude: Natural Selection: In Search of the Aye-Aye [Aye-Aye Lemurs - 01/11/1985]
  1. Ralph, The Fragrant Parrot Of Codfish Island [Kakapo Parrot - 04/10/1989]
  2. Gone Fishing! [Yangtze River Dolphin - 11/10/1989]
  3. Animal, Vegetable Or Mineral? [Amazonian Manatee - 18/10/1989]
  4. The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind [Rodrigues Fruit Bat - 25/10/1989]
  5. A Man-Eating, Evil-Smelling Dragon [Komodo Dragon - 01/11/1989]
  6. The Sultan Of Juan Fernandez [Fur Seal - 08/11/1989]
The episodes went out at 12.25pm on Wednesdays with a repeat at 8.00pm on the following Sunday. In the absence of a commercial release, all the episodes should be available to listen to at the National Sound Archive. In May 1997 Radio 4 broadcast another set of five fifteen-minute programmes under the title Last Chance to See. These were Douglas reading from the Komodo Dragon chapter of the book, and a companion website was created at the time is still available at

The radio series was made with each episode having three or four Hitchhikers Guide style vignettes read by Peter Jones, but with the majority of the content coming from the on the spot recordings made on their travels. These provide their instant reaction to what they are seeing allowing Mark to describe the creatures and Douglas to give his commentary. There are also some more considered comments that were recorded by Douglas after their return that has a background of typewriter noises. The radio programmes featured in a two-page article in the Radio Times (30/09/1989) that quoted Douglas as saying, “The intention of the series is to be serious, but because I'm a comedy writer the tone will be light. The aim is to bring these issues to a broader audience: greens tend to preach to the converted on green issues.”

Writing the book to accompany the series was somewhat of a struggle. Mark and Douglas planned to do this over the course of four months at a villa in Juan-les-Pins in the South of France. With Mark commuting weekly and Douglas there full time, they managed to produce a solitary page, although they did do a great deal of planning and lunching. Returning to London the pair were apparently locked into Douglas's house in Islington in order to produce the book, which, so the story goes, the publishers took as soon as they thought it was long enough. The page written in France didn't make the final edit. This is one of the reasons that two of the species they searched for did not make the book at all: the Juan Fernandez Fur Seal and the Amazonian Manatee. The audio version of the book, the English version of which is read by Douglas Adams, further excludes a couple of the book chapters in order to fit the double cassette format.

Last Chance to See – Book Chapter Guide
  1. Twig Technology [Aye-Aye]
  2. Here Be Chickens [Komodo Dragon]
  3. Leopardskin Pillbox Hat [Northern White Rhino / Gorilla]
  4. Heartbeats in the Night [Kakapo]
  5. Blind Panic [River Dolphin]
  6. Rare, or Medium Rare? [Rodrigues Fruit Bat]
  7. Sifting Through the Embers [Sibylline Books]
  8. Mark's Last Word ... [Summary / News]
A CD-ROM followed in 1992, produced by The Voyager Company. This has audio recordings of Douglas reading the whole of the book as well as some contributions from Mark about the individual animals and extracts from their on the spot recordings. There are also over 800 photographs from the trip included in the multimedia package. In 2001 a German company re-released the CD-ROM, the book having been successful in translation into German, and a German audio-book also being available. Other translations of the book include Dutch, Polish, Czech and Hebrew editions.

The trips that he and Mark undertook awoke within Douglas a sense of wonderment at the natural world that can be seen in his subsequent writings. Both Mostly Harmless (1992), with the section about Perfectly Normal Beast, and the Salmon of Doubt (2002) with the Rhino's point of view of a rampage, reflect the development of his ecological awareness. In a March 1998 interview with Matt Newsome, partly reproduced in The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas mentions the impact of his trip to Madagascar on the first Dirk Gently book, although the author admitted that “I recast it for various reasons as Mauritius”. The interview also touched on the possibility of a Last Chance to See TV series, although Douglas presaged that part of the interview with “I probably shouldn't say this” as the discussions were only just beginning, and at the time came to naught. After publishing the first Dirk Gently book, Douglas became friends with Richard Dawkins who had written Douglas a fan letter after reading the novel, and this again reinforced and developed his interest in evolution and natural history. Douglas eventually became a patron of both Save The Rhino and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, charities for which the annual Douglas Adams Memorial Lectures have raised money.

A set of follow-up trips were touted and an article appeared in The Times (19th February 1991) which indicated that the pair were to be even more intrepid than on their previous trips and look specifically at species whose predicaments had been caused by their proximity to war zones. Again the Kouprey was mentioned by name, described as living “on the borders of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, which has been devastated by minefields”. The article also mentioned the pair having researched the plight of animals in Afghanistan, Uganda and Nicaragua, and the potential of looking at the predicament of fish and birds in the oil spills of the (First) Gulf War zone. This is as far as the second series seemed to get, however, the Last Chance to See story does not end there, as nearly twenty years after the original radio series we now have the prospect of a televisual update with the working title Another Chance to See.

At a lecture in London in November 2006, to raise money for tiger conservation, Mark Carwardine was introduced as “the author of 54 books, and shortly to film a series with Stephen Fry”. Asked about it after the lecture Mark confirmed that he was in the process of arranging the filming dates for going to visit the people and animals that he had seen with Douglas and hoped the series would be broadcast in Spring of 2008. Stephen Fry would be filling the role of enthusiastic amateur now Douglas is no longer with us, and was not only a great friend of Adams, but also has his own environmental pedigree with his TV programme, book on the Spectacled Bear, as well as a charity to help protect it. The TV series has had quite a long gestation. Stephen Fry mentioned on a webchat that he was in discussions about this project with Mark back in June 2006. Another Chance to See seemed to take a major step forward when the TV company Iostar announced it on their website as part of their launch at the TV trade show MIP-TV in Cannes during the second week of April 2007. Part of the text ran: “This time it's Stephen Fry at the helm with Carwardine, as they revisit the six featured endangered species and bring their stories right up to date. From Madagascar to Mauritius, and from China to the Congo, the pair will be guided by the ethereal presence of Douglas Adams whose voice lives on, loud and clear in scene-setting audio.” The company then went spectacularly bust soon afterwards. However, the project was far from being dodo-like...

Added by Gareth, September 2009
In January 2008, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine set off on the first filming expedition, to try and find the Amazonian Manatee. Unfortunately, Stephen fell off a boat dock and broke his arm badly, but the first of the films was in the can.

Further filming expeditions followed from mid-2008 through the spring of 2009. Stephen Fry "Twitter-ed" their progress regularly, and the BBC provided blogs and video clips on their new Last Chance To See website. The website also gradually released streaming audio of the entire original radio series. As the radio series had never received a commercial release before, this was very well received by fans.

Working titles for the films were "Another Chance To See" and "Last Chance To See - The Return", but ultimately the series would end up being called "Last Chance To See". On Sunday 6th October 2009, the six-part TV series began on BBC2 at 8p.m.

Last Chance to See – TV Episode Guide
  1. Last Chance to See: Amazonian Manatee [6/9/2009]
  2. Last Chance to See: Northern White Rhino [13/9/2009]
  3. Last Chance to See: Aye Aye [20/9/2009]
  4. Last Chance to See: Komodo Dragon [27/9/2009]
  5. Last Chance to See: Kakapo [4/10/2009]
  6. Last Chance to See: Blue Whale [18/10/2009]
To accompany the TV series, Mark Carwardine wrote a new Last Chance To See book, with a foreward by Stephen Fry, which was released in hardback on September 3rd 2009, published by Collins. A DVD and Blu-ray of the TV series was released on October 19th, 2009.

A version of this article, also by David Haddock, first appeared in issue #105 of Mostly Harmless, the magazine of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society. See

Apologies for the re-post, but with the TV series about to begin, Dave's article deserves another visit to the front page

Last Chance To See - TV Series: Guardian Article

There's a fabulous feature on The Guardian website about the Last Chance To See TV series. Stephen Fry begins the feature, which then links to some excerpts from the new book that accompanies the series (by Mark Carwardine, with Stephen Fry). There's also a very nice picture gallery.
I had been sharing a place in Dalston at this time with a group of friends from university, but we were now at the stage where it was possible to consider splitting up and buying our own flats and houses. I wanted to find a place in Islington, but also felt that I needed time to look around and wait for the perfect property. Perhaps I should rent first? I offloaded my tedious residential worries on Douglas one afternoon as we sat in his study staring at a Mac and wondering, for the thousandth time, if we could stop it going "boing" and closing down whenever we tried to do something unusual with it.

"Why don't you stay here for a year?" he suggested. "You can house-sit for me. I've decided to go round the world for 12 months seeking out rare animals."

"You've de-whatted to go round the what, whatting out whats?"
Read on

Last Chance To See: ARKive Scrapbook

There's a special "Last Chance to See Scrapbook" setup on the fabulous ARKive website, all about the animals Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine have been (re)visiting for the Last Chance To See TV series.

ARKive is a unique collection of thousands of wildlife videos, images and fact-files, with a special focus on the world's threatened species.

Thanks to Dave Haddock

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Kakapo Parrots: The 124 Birds

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeWith the chance re-discovery of Rangi in February of this year, we stood at 91 living Kakapo Parrots, before a flurry of breeding produced 33 additional chicks (20 male & 13 female), bringing us up to 124 birds.

This Wikipedia page contains the most up-to-date information on their names, but here they are in a simplified view, with much of their family tree information removed.
FEMALES - Total 57
Hine taumai
Margaret-Maree "Marmar"
Weheruatanga o te po
13 2009 Chicks
Recently deceased
John-Girl (Died: September, 1991)
Aroha (died: July 2004)
Aurora (died: July 2004)
Vollie (died: July 2004)
MALES - Total 67
Elwin (Unofficial name)
Rangi (First Captured 1987. Rediscovered February 2009, after hiding for 21 years on Codfish Island)
Richard Henry
Rooster (Unofficial name)
Te Kingi
20 2009 chicks
Recently deceased
Gerry (Died: 1991)
Pegasus (Died: 1993)
Rob (Died: February 1994)
Ken (Died: July 1998)
Gunner (died: winter 2005)
Bill (died: March 2008, 2008: father of:...)
Mokopuna (died: April 2008, 2008 Chick #7)
Lee (died: October 28, 2008)

Video: Mountain Gorillas... 98.6% Human

Please enjoy the following video from explore Africa, winner of the 2009 Maui Film Festival.
On a trip to Rwanda, explore had the opportunity to visit four families of wild mountain gorillas, a species with only 720 remaining members. Their guide is Craig Sholley, who has been intimately involved in the preservation of African wildlife for more than 30 years. The team's thrilling interaction with these peaceful creatures - who share 98.6% of their genetic makeup with humans - is a startling reminder of their own humanity. Distributed by Tubemogul.
Direct video link at

TV Series Trailer

The voice of Stephen Fry, from a trailer playing on the BBC...
My journey begins in lands far away, in search of the rarest of creatures,
the bushy tailed Aye-Aye, with witch-like fingers,
the fragrant whiskered Kakapo Parrot, way too heavy for flight,
the fork-tongued Komodo Dragon, breathing its foul breath,
the white rhino with strange squared lips,
and the mermaid like Manatee, blissfully gliding through rivers,
all wonderful beasts, but all endangered.
Follow my quest to find them, before they fade away... forever.

Join Stephen Fry in what might be our Last Chance To See. Sunday at Eight, on BBC2.

Thanks to a commenter below, the video may be available in the UK at

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

BBC Last Chance to See Blog: Brazil Conclusions

Mark Carwardine has posted a blog entry on the BBC Last Chance to See Blog about the Brazilian trip to see the Amazonian Manatees.
Last Chance to See hits our screens this week starting in the Amazon. I was a little apprehensive about this first shoot to be honest. Travelling with Stephen was going to be like travelling with Wikipedia. I remember sending a video blog about this at the time. He's far too unassuming and generous to make anyone feel in any way deficient on purpose, but there's no escaping the fact that he's the kind of person who makes you continually question your own intellect.

TV Series: Full Schedule

Mark Carwardine's site now has the full broadcast schedule for the Last Chance To See TV series. I've sneaked a look at the trailer for the show, and it looks absolutely splendid. All episodes will be found on BBC2, from Sunday 6 September, starting at 8p.m.
6 SEPTEMBER - Last Chance to See: Amazonian Manatee
13 SEPTEMBER - Last Chance to See: Northern White Rhino
20 SEPTEMBER- Last Chance to See: Aye Aye
27 SEPTEMBER- Last Chance to See: Komodo Dragon
11 OCTOBER - Last Chance to See: Kakapo
18 OCTOBER -Last Chance to See: Blue Whale
Thanks to Dave Haddock

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Kakapo Parrots: The Last Release

The Kakapo Recovery Programme Ranger Diary has just posted a nice update on the release of the last of the 2009 season’s chicks. Hananui’s chick in now getting accustomed to life in the Whenua Hou forest.
This release was special for the team for a number of reasons. Firstly, she has been on a recovery mission having arrived back from Auckland Zoo’s Veterinary centre following treatment for an infected footpad and a torn eyelid. She has always been an intrepid climber and presumably these injuries were sustained during an overly ambitious attempt to summit one of the Manukas in the chick pen. On discovery of her injuries the team kept close watch on her health. After initial improvement her foot became more swollen and it was clear that she would need Veterinary assistance.

She was flown off Codfish Island and Sandy Cooper of Invercargill performed a minor operation to trim the damaged eyelid and remove dead tissue from the wound on the underside of her foot. All patched up, our young Kakapo flew up to Auckland on the same day, and thrived under the care of the Auckland Zoo Veterinary staff, recovering quickly and returning to us ready to be weaned. She spent ten days in the Codfish Island chick pen, at which time we knew she was ready for the forest-proper.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last Chance To See: TV Series Episode 1 - Amazonian Manatee

BBC2's schedule webpage now confirms that episode 1 of the Last Chance To See TV series, featuring Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine, is called "Amazonian Manatee", and will air on Sunday, September 6th at 8p.m. For all you UK viewers, enjoy. I've already got the DVD on order for my Region Free player, so I'll be a little behind with any thoughts on the shows.
Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine head to the ends of the Earth in search of animals on the edge of extinction, following the route Mark took 20 years ago with the author Douglas Adams.

They set out to discover how the lugubrious Amazonian manatee, a freshwater mammal, has survived the last two decades, but Stephen breaks his arm deep in the Amazon rainforest.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Last Chance To See TV Series: Mail On Sunday Feature

The Mail website features a lengthy article on the making of the Last Chance To See TV series, as media coverage starts to pick up ahead of the BBC2 broadcast in September...
At 5am, deep in the Amazon jungle, as the film-makers struggled through horrific conditions, Fry slipped on the makeshift dock and crashed down onto his side.

It was immediately obvious that he was badly hurt. But this was the middle of the jungle, there was no help at hand, and the rain was beating down.

Carwardine, Fry's long-term friend, recalls, 'Seeing Stephen in agony, and trying to decide quickly what to do, was tough. We couldn't tell if he had damaged his spine, because the pain was so severe he couldn't move. We called for help on our satellite phone, while someone else ran to a village that had a small medical centre to get pain relief.'

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stephen Fry: New Scientist Interview

Issue 2721 of New Scientist, and online, features an interview with Stephen Fry about his involvement in the Last Chance To See TV series project. The interview also covers his interest in Twitter, Apple and all things technological.
Had things got worse since Adams's visit?

Each place has its own unique problems. In Madagascar a slash-and-burn policy over the past 60 years has devastated four-fifths of one of the most remarkable forests there ever was. That is what threatens the lemur population in Madagascar, as opposed to the [central African] northern white rhino, now extinct in the wild, which has more to do with poaching and the cross-border incursions of whatever war is going on.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Last Chance To See - TV Series Begins Sunday, 6th September

According to Mark Carwardine's website, the Last Chance To See TV series featuring Mark and new presenter Stephen Fry will begin on Sunday, 6th September, at either 8 or 9p.m. on BBC2.
The six-part series will include some of the old stars from the book, and it will introduce us to many new ones that have inevitably joined the ever-expanding cast of endangered species.

Updating the animals’ stories and explaining their ecological predicaments, Mark and Stephen will face (and they already have) a catalogue of adventures. The amazing, often eccentric human characters whose determination was all that kept the animals from going extinct all those years ago have still been around.
The Last Chance To See DVD and Blu-ray are already available for pre-order from The countdown starts now...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rwanda Beekeeper Sparked Fire, Endangered Gorillas

BBC News reports that fire fighting crews in Rwanda have contained wildfires that were set off accidentally by a beekeeper, who was smoking bees out of a hive to collect honey. Reports said groups of gorillas had been seen fleeing the flames, but they don't say whether it it was Lowland (probable), or Mountain Gorillas that were affected.
Rwanda's tourism chief Rosette Rugamba said 4,000 people had taken part in the emergency response - including local officials and government ministers.

She said the fires were under control but not completely extinguished.
"He tried to put it out by himself but he failed. He is the one who broke the news about the fire," she said.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In the Land of Dragons

Here's a nice travelogue article by Lee Yu Kit on their visit to the home of the Komodo Dragons, Rinca Island.
Besides the Komodo dragons, a number of other interesting animals inhabit Rinca. One of these is the megapode, a terrestrial bird which constructs large mound nests from vegetation, in which their eggs are hatched from the heat of the decaying organic matter. Megapodes are only found to the east of the Wallace line.
The ranger, Mansur, was a soft-spoken man who was armed only with a forked wooden staff. He didn’t have any special advice, only to stay a safe distance from the animals and not to wander off the path. Since Komodo dragons can outrun a human being, I wondered what we would do if one decided to make a dash at us.
I asked Mansur if people hunted the Komodo dragon for food.

He smiled and replied, “Orang tak makan dia, dia makan orang (People don’t eat it, it eats people)”.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kakapo Say Farewell to City Adventure

The Southland Times reported last week that all the kakapo chicks that were being hand-reared in Invercargill have now returned home to Codfish Island. Hurrah.
Kakapo recovery team leader Deidre Vercoe said the 90-day-old chicks would spend up to six weeks in temporary outdoor pens while they weaned off the hand-rearing food and on to natural vegetation.

Each would then be fitted with a tracking transmitter and slowly introduced into the wild in small groups around the island.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

David Attenborough's Life Stories: Komodo Dragon

David Attenborough's ongoing Radio 4 series A Point of View: David Attenborough's Life Stories, this week features him talking about the Komodo Dragon. The episode is available to listen online for a week, and also as a podcast.

And, in a repost of information I previously published on this blog...
Check out the David Attenborough BBC Archive page which includes all six episodes of his Zoo Quest for a Dragon TV series, first broadcast in 1956! Unfortunately its only available to UK users, due to copyright restrictions.

Program 1 synopsis...
David Attenborough and cameraman Charles Lagus begin their quest in Borneo, the first in the chain of islands they must cross in order to reach Komodo. There they trek through jungle to a village belonging to the Dayak tribe, where they are given a warm welcome. The 'Zoo Quest' team are hoping to find an orangutan and, with guidance from the Dayaks, they discover and film one in the wild. However, it is an orphaned orangutan held captive by a hunter that Attenborough falls for in the end. has a number of Zoo Quest products available, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, or even better (because David Attenborough reads it), get the book on CD. It's a great adventure. Zoo Quest books and tapes are also available in the US: Zoo Quest stuff at

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Zealand Bird Call Man Honoured by Forest and Bird reported last month that 87 year old nature sound recordist John Kendrick was presented with an "Old Blue" award by Forest and Bird, in recognition of his life's work.
He was the first person to record the elusive kakapo.

"We just simply waited and waited, and then sure enough came these amazing booms like somebody just beating on a drum, and those were the first ever recordings of the kakapo... It was just that I happened to be there first. Somebody else could have done it if they'd been lucky enough to be there."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wanderlust Interview with Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine

Issue 105 of Wanderlust magazine features a long interview with Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine about their experiences filming the upcoming TV series. Fortunately the entire interview is also available online at Enjoy.
Mark, when you revisited these places, were the original contacts still there?

MC: Yes, that was amazing – in every case the people that Douglas and I originally met are either in the field doing the same jobs, protecting the same species, or are at least still involved. They were doing it long before Douglas and I visited and have been doing it for the twenty years since. For me, that’s one of the key things in conservation that gives me any hope at all; that there are these absolutely dedicated individuals who devote their lives – and in some cases like Kes Hillman Smith in Africa, who risk their lives – to protect one species. And there are many examples around the world where conservation groups haven’t saved the species but one or two individuals have.

SF: Lke Don Merton, an amazing guy.

MC: Yes, Mr Kakapo!

SF: Yes, he’s in his 70s and absolutely fantastic. They are inspiring people. The big lesson for me was just what a difference that an individual human being who is passionate can make.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kakapo Sirocco To Go On Tour?

More New Zealanders may get the opportunity to meet Sirocco the Kakapo, as the Department of Conservation is considering a nationwide tour for the bird, star of several years of Kakapo Encounters on Ulva Island. The Southland Times has the story.
Kakapo Recovery Team leader Diedre Vercoe said Sirocco had his last chance in the programme in spring but had failed to impress. "We thought because he was quite friendly ... we thought `here's a really good opportunity and he would be quite a frequent donator' but he's all talk."

Sirocco would remain on Codfish Island until August, when he would move to Ulva island for a month for this year's encounter. After that his role would probably change, with several ideas being discussed, including a national trip.

"We've decided his main purpose from this point on is going to be for advocacy ... one idea that's been mooted is that he ... visits a few places around the country so different people can see him."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Baby Aye-Aye Lemur at Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo has been celebrating the birth of a baby Aye-Aye Lemur, only the second to be born in the USA. has the news and pictures, along with this YouTube video.
Denver Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a new aye-aye, a rare endangered primate found in Madagascar. The male infant was born Saturday, April 18, but still does not have a name. The infant’s birth is significant as it is only the second aye-aye to be born at a North American zoo as well as the first to be conceived at a North American zoo. The new aye-aye is currently in a nest box in Denver Zoo’s Emerald Forest building inside the Primate Panorama exhibit. Visitors will be able to see the youngster as he grows and becomes more self sufficient.

The newborn had a low birth weight, but Denver Zoo veterinary and primate staff diligently provided supplemental care and intense management of mom and infant. Eventually this resulted in appropriate weight gains and successful maternal care by the infant’s mother. His weight at birth was 82 grams, but he soon doubled that in roughly two week’s time to 164 grams as of May 4, 2009.
If anyone visits and gets any more pictures, do let me know as I'd be delighted to post them on the site.

Following the comments on the ZooBorns site led me to this article on the previous birth at San Fransisco Zoo, and this super video.

Friday, June 05, 2009

TV Series Launch Event at Royal Geographical Society

From this month's Save The Rhino newsletter, is exciting news of a special event at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday October 27th. Presented by Save The Rhino, join Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine as they update us on their quest to follow up the story of the Northern white rhino from Last Chance To See. The event starts at 7.30pm, and doors open at 6.30pm.
In autumn 2009, BBC2 will be airing the Last Chance to See series showing Mark and Stephen on their journey to find species on the edge of extinction. These species are the:

Komodo Dragon
Blue Whale
Kakapo Parrot
White Rhino

On Tuesday 27 October Stephen and Mark will update us on their quest to find the Northern white rhino; the Northern white rhino lived, until recently, in Uganda, southern Chad, south-western Sudan, the eastern part of Central African Republic, and north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. However this has all changed and the Northern white rhino is unfortunately right on the brink of extinction due to poaching, civil unrest and corruption. Four individuals were seen in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, but none have been seen there since, and no where else in the wild. There are 11 in captivity, in the Czech Republic and California, but they're not breeding. It is a desperate situation for the Northern white rhino so join us at the Royal Geographical Society in October to hear more about Stephen and Mark's journey.

To find out more about the Last Chance to See series and the Northern white rhino please follow the links.

Tickets will go on sale at the beginning of July but please e-mail to be notified when they do.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Clive Anderson's Save the Rhino Appeal **UPDATED**

Clive Anderson appeals on behalf of Save the Rhino. Save the Rhino works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia.
Listen now on the BBC Radio 4 website

1300 Enchanted by Kakapo Chicks

Six of 2009's Kakapo chicks proved a popular attraction over the weekend, with as many as 1300 people filing through the Invercargill Workingmen's Club to see them. The Southland Times has the story.
As each group entered the darkened room the smiles quickly spread on the faces in the crowd with oohs and aahs and plenty of finger pointing.

"They're much bigger than I thought they would be," seven-year-old Luke Holland said, while eight-year-old Callum Taylor was enchanted by two of the chicks playing clumsily in the enclosure.
One observer, Colin Winter, said that seeing the kakapo first hand reinforced his view they must be protected. "They're unique, there's nothing like them in the world and today shows what great work DOC are doing to save them."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Towel Day Tomorrow - Do You Know Where Your Towel Is?

Tomorrow, May 25, is Towel Day 2009. Towel Day is an annual celebration, and tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001), when fans around the universe proudly carry a towel in his honour.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fry Records TV Series Commentaries

Despite a lingering dicky tummy, Stephen Fry recorded commentaries for three episodes of the Last Chance To See TV series yesterday. From Twitter...
Tummy seems to be improving. Commentary tracks for three of the Last Chance To See films to be done this morning. About to walk in to town.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another Chance To See Kakapo Chicks

New Zealand's Southland Times has the news that visitors to Invercargill will have the opportunity to view some of this season's 33 surviving Kakapo chicks (3 more died), who will be on display at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club from 10am to 4pm on Saturday May 23rd.
Conservation Department Kakapo Recovery Team leader Diedre Vercoe said being able to share the special birds with the public was a wonderful way to celebrate what has been an incredible breeding season.
They hoped to have three chicks on display in the morning and two in the afternoon. Exact numbers would depend on how well the birds coped with the attention, she said.

Of the 33 [surviving] chicks hatched this season, 20 were male and 13 female. The recovery team had hoped for more females but was still pleased with the results, she said.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Clive Anderson's Save the Rhino Appeal: BBC Radio 4, May 24th

From Save The Rhino's monthly newsletter...
BBC Radio 4 Appeal in aid of Save the Rhino International’s environmental education programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.

Barrister, broadcaster, comedian and author Clive Anderson is to make an appeal on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 24 May in aid of three environmental education programmes supported by Save the Rhino International. Clive was inspired by the late, great Douglas Adams, who spoke and wrote about the plight of one of the rhino species in his radio series and book, “Last Chance to See.”

Tune in to hear the appeal which will be broadcast on Sunday 24 May at 7.55am and repeated at 9.26pm and again on Thursday 28 May at 3.27pm at 92-95 FM & 198 LW. To learn more about the appeal please click here. Please tell friends and family to tune in too! Thank you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kakapo Cold Storage

Here's another Kakapo Ranger Diary, direct from Invercargill in New Zealand. It's currently a "hive of activity" as they are hand-rearing 26 of this year's Kakapo chicks.
Hand rearing on this scale is the kind of madness not even Daryl would dream of. The chicks here have all come off the island due to the fact that they were either ill or not putting on weight at the required rate, a sure sign mum isn't coping with her precious young charges.

It's a far cry from those long summer days out and about on Codfish Island finding mating sign and nests, then later on racing around those nests at night checking on eggs and chicks but it really is the business end of the season now. The goal of fully fledged juvenile kakapo is almost in sight now and getting closer with every new green feather that grows.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Excess Baggage: Mountain Gorillas in Uganda

In this week's episode of BBC Radio 4's Excess Baggage...
John McCarthy talks to two winners of the Whitley Awards for International Nature Conservation who have been tackling the problems of human beings and wild animals living side by side. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a wildlife vet working with mountain gorillas in Uganda and has started a project to prevent the spread of diseases between people and gorillas. Jittin Ritthirat works in Thailand trying to reconcile the needs of the wild elephants with the interests of the human residents of and visitors to the monsoon forest.
The episode is available for streaming online or as an MP3 podcast. To subscribe to the show's weekly MP3, here's the RSS feed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kakapo Encounter 2009

Kakapo EncounterI'm delighted to tell you that the Kakapo Encounter with Sirocco is back for 2009, with nightly departures to Ulva Island running September 26 to October 26.

Wildlife Extra has more news on this event, and there's an early bird special if you book your tickets by 30th June ($85 per adult, $45 per child).
Today, there are just 125 kakapo alive, though this is a major achievement for a bird that was down to just 51 in 1995. Once prevalent throughout New Zealand, kakapo now reside on the predator-free Codfish Island under the care of the Kakapo Recovery Programme. Typically only scientists involved in the programme have had the opportunity to behold this rare and mysterious bird. That changed three years ago with the inception of Kakapo Encounter. In the Spring of 2006, the Ulva Island Charitable Trust hosted Kakapo Encounter on the predator-free bird sanctuary Ulva Island and invited the public to come observe a kakapo.
Here's the location of Ulva Island. The full Google Maps and versions links to this location are available below.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Huge Population of Rare Dolphins Discovered

Here's some news from a few weeks ago. A large population of some 6000 Irrawaddy dolphins were recently found living in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest and the Bay of Bengal. Full story at
“With all the news about freshwater environments and state of the Oceans, WCS’s discovery that a thriving population of Irrawaddy dolphins exists in Bangladesh gives us hope for protecting this and other endangered species and their important habitats,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “WCS is committed to conservation of these iconic marine species from dolphins, sea turtles, sharks to the largest whales.”

“This discovery gives us great hope that there is a future for Irrawaddy dolphins,” said Brian D. Smith, the study’s lead author. “Bangladesh clearly serves as an important sanctuary for Irrawaddy dolphins, and conservation in this region should be a top priority.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eighth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Marcus du Sautoy on "42"

According to their website and the latest issue of Save The Rhino's "The Horn" newsletter, The Eighth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture will take place on Thursday, March 11th, 2010. (Douglas Adams' birthday)

The lecture will be given by Oxford Professor of Mathematics Marcus du Sautoy on the very Douglas Adams-ie subject of "42". Proceeds will go towards Save the Rhino International and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

For tickets (which cost £15) please contact Fiona Macleod for tickets, phone +44 (0)20 7357 7474.
Marcus du Sautoy is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College. He has been named by the Independent on Sunday as one of the UK's leading scientists. In 2001 he won the prestigious Berwick Prize of the London Mathematical Society awarded every two years to reward the best mathematical research made by a mathematician under 40. In 2004 Esquire Magazine chose him as one of the 100 most influential people under 40 in Britain and in 2008 he was included in the prestigious directory Who’s Who.

Marcus du Sautoy writes for the Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent and the Guardian and is frequently asked for comment on BBC radio and television. He has a regular column in the Times called Sexy Maths.
Photo Credit: Niall McDiarmid

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

TV - "Wild Vets" featuring Kakapo vets

Starting Sunday May 17 at 7pm on TV One in New Zealand, a new series called "Wild Vets" follows vets working in the wild and in zoos throughout New Zealand.
Wild Vets won't tell you the truth about cats and dogs.

But it will profile a group of wildlife vets whose work ranges from the recently publicised kakapo recovery on Codfish Island (just south of Stewart Island) to the importation of gibbons bound for Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch and serval cats and cheetahs for Wellington Zoo.
In other news, Associate Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson had a hands-on inspection of the Kakapo Recovery Programme on Codfish Island last weekend.
“It’s a real treat to get the opportunity to see how the programme is working and observe the kakapo in their habitat,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“Those involved in the recovery programme are doing an amazing job, particularly the huge number of volunteers who spend countless hours caring for nests and kakapo chicks in the breeding season.

“The new chicks offer a real life-line to the survival of the kakapo, as 40 percent of the population have been in the programme since its founding in 1995 and are now over breeding age.”
Scoop has the full story.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

125 Kakapos - Rangers Reserves Winding Down

With 125 Kakapo Parrots now in existence, and the 2009 breeding season complete, the reserve Kakapo Rangers are heading home, with happy memories of a fantastic year. 34 chicks brought the total up from 91 to 125, a rise of well over 30%! It's been a season we will long remember.
While the kakapo population climbs the 'people' population declines, on the island that is. The current total count for kakapo is 125 while the people on the island have dwindled to 9 and this looks set to decrease to just 6 this week! That said, those of us on the mainland, plus many extra reserves called in, are working almost 24 hours round the clock to hand raise the 26 baby kakapo removed to Invercargill for handrearing. All's not quiet on the island though......
The Kakapo Recovery Programme website has the rest of this latest Ranger Diary.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back from Vacation

I've just returned from vacation, so normal service will resume shortly.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Last Chance To See - The Radio Series *UPDATED*

The BBC Last Chance To See "Radio" page has been updated again to include the full radio episode "A Man-Eating, Evil-Smelling Dragon". This episode features Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in their search for the Komodo Dragon, and completes the series on the website.

The radio series episode guide in David Haddock's "The Story of Last Chance To See" has been updated with the link to all of the episodes, but here's the complete list anyway...

Last Chance to See – Radio Episode Guide
Prelude: Natural Selection: In Search of the Aye-Aye [Aye-Aye Lemurs - 01/11/1985]
  1. Ralph, The Fragrant Parrot Of Codfish Island [Kakapo Parrot - 04/10/1989]
  2. Gone Fishing! [Yangtze River Dolphin - 11/10/1989]
  3. Animal, Vegetable Or Mineral? [Amazonian Manatee - 18/10/1989]
  4. The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind [Rodrigues Fruit Bat - 25/10/1989]
  5. A Man-Eating, Evil-Smelling Dragon [Komodo Dragon - 01/11/1989]
  6. The Sultan Of Juan Fernandez [Fur Seal - 08/11/1989]

NOTE: This material is only available to UK users due to copyright restrictions.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Kakapo Breeding Season - Video Report

Here's a video report from the middle of last month covering the tremendous Kakapo breeding season we've been having.

TV Series Filming Complete

Well that looks to be that. Stephen Fry has Twittered his final reports from the Komodo Dragon expedition, and the team are on their way back to London. I'm sure Stephen and Mark will have some voice-over work to do, but its now really all down to the producers and editors to whittle the footage down to about six hours worth of TV, ready for the autumn broadcast on BBC2.
Catching flight to Labuhan Bajo - thence a boat to Komodo. Airline not on EC approved list. Heigh ho...

Komodo Dragons seen. Scary drooling monsters of minimal cuteness, but most impressive.

Last day's filming. Labuan Bajo-Denpasar-Singapore tonight. S'pore-London tomorrow.

Back in Labuan Bajo. Mosquito bitten, sunburnt but very happy. Lots of travelling to do.

Sweltering into a flesh soup at Labuan Bajo airport awaiting flight to Denpasar. Can't believe Last Chance To See filming over. 12/07-4/09
Safe trip everyone.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Silverback Gorilla Who Had One Too Many...

Here's some pictures from the Daily Mail of a 30 stone Silverback Kwitonda who has too much alcoholic sap from his bamboo shoot dinner. Oh my.
'It was not exactly Gorillas In The Mist, more like gorillas who were p*****,' said [Andy] Rouse, 43, who was on his fourth trip to see the animals in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Central Africa.

'I had heard they sometimes get like this, but I had never actually seen it. It was just like any family party when one or two members have a little bit too much to drink.

'The boss of the group, a huge silverback called Kwitonda, and some of the younger males were completely out of it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Twenty-Eight Kakapo Chicks - Nine More Possible!

Quite frankly, this success of this year's Kakapo breeding season has blown me away completely. A new Kakapo Ranger Diary from Phil reveals that 28 chicks have successfully hatched, with another 9 close to full-term. That brings us up to 119 Kakapos, with the chance of making it to 128. Extrordinary! Fabulous! How cool is THAT?
Cyndy, Heather, Wendy, Zephyr, Hoki and Ruth are currently rearing 2 chicks each and Margeret-Maree, Ellie, Jean, Bella and Alice are rearing 1 chick each. Over the next few days Fuchsia, Lisa and Sarah will hopefully hatch 2 chicks each.
The next few weeks will give us more of an idea of how the season will develop. The best that we can now hope for is a grand total of 37 chicks!

Radio New Zealand - Kakapo Audios

Thanks to the ever dependable Dave Haddock for pointing out that Radio New Zealand has a couple of Kakapo Parrot related episodes of "Our Changing World" available to download as MP3 podcasts through their RSS feed.

OCW 2009-03-12: Kakapo Rediscovery and Frozen Sperm Bank
A kakapo is rediscovered after being missing for 21 years, and the Sperm Team create a frozen sperm bank
25 Kakapo Chicks have hatched with more to come!

OCW 2009-03-26: Science and Kakapo
Science plays an integral role in the Kakapo Recovery Programme, and evolutionary theory has proved a reality on the ground
The first of these programmes refers to the chance re-discovery of Ranji after 21 years. He's pictured on the programme main page here being fitted with a radio transmitter by Alison Ballance, Daryl Eason (centre) and discoverer Chris Birmingham.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How the Pink Pigeon Escaped the Dodo's Fate

Isobel Shepherd-Smith has a nice article on The Times website about the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and how it has been working to bring back native creatures from the brink of extinction. The article ticks many of the Last Chance To See boxes with mentions of Carl Jones, Dodos, Mauritius Kestrels, Pink Pigeons, Echo Parakeets, Gerald Durrell, Round Island, and Rodrigues.
In the Seventies the kestrel, the only raptor on the island, was one of the rarest birds in the world – only four lived in the wild. Today there are more than 800.

In 1980 the number of pink pigeons barely made double figures; 27 years later there were 380. In the 1980s the emerald green echo parakeet numbered little more than a dozen; now there are well over 300.
“At the start of this conservation work in the 1970s the future of the endemic species in Mauritius and Rodrigues seemed bleak and many thought that few could be saved from extinction. Thirty years later the long-term conservation of all the Mascarene [Mauritius, RĂ©union and Rodrigues] endemics is within our grasp.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TV Series Filming Almost Complete

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicFilming for the Last Chance To See TV series is now almost complete, with footage of various South Pacific fauna safely in the can and Komodo Dragons scheduled for next week. Here's some of Stephen's TwitPics of turtle hatchlings.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Internet Explorer Error - Solved?

I think I've just solved a curious Internet Explorer error that was causing text to appear and disappear strangely. I'm almost exclusively a Firefox user these days and haven't looked at the site in IE for ages. I'm not sure how long its been in that state. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Komodo Dragons Maul Fruit-Picker to Death covers the story of two Komodo Dragons who attacked fruit-picker Muhamad Anwar on Komodo Island after he fell out of an apple tree. He died at a Flores clinic a short time later.
He was bleeding badly from bites to his hands, body, legs and neck after two lizards, waiting below, attacked him, according to a neighbor, Theresia Tawa.[...]
There have been several other attacks in recent months, according to Metro TV.

The reptiles, which can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh as much as 150 pounds, have shark-like serrated teeth and a bite that can be deadly. Its saliva contains roughly 50 different known bacteria strains, so infection is a risk.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Becki Saves the Rhinos

I'd just like to wish Becki the very best of luck in her training for the London Marathon on the 26th of April. She's making her own rhino costume to raise funds for Save The Rhino. You can read about her progress and sponsor her at BeckiSavesTheRhinos.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Twenty Kakapo Chicks - YAY!

Lizzy's Ranger Diary for March 18th tells us that there are now 111 Kakapos in the world, with 20 hatched this spring/autumn (depending on your hemispheric perspective). I'm sure you agree that this is the most positive Last Chance To See news we've had in the 5 years I've been running this site. Most excellent.
the eggs of inexperienced young mums being given to older birds for safe-keeping. Six are being looked after by the kakapo team and doing well so far.
Chick warming duties can require two to five stints at the nest while mums search for food to address increasing demands from growing offspring. Squirming, fluffy chicks are carefully covered in a tiny ‘electric blanket’ and the mother’s location is carefully monitored in anticipation of her return.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Last Chance To See: Book Review

Sonia Mitchell has written a review of the original Last Chance To See book, over at, and I thought it was worth a link if you're still on the fence about reading this terrific book. She gives it an 8/10.
Adams treads a delicate line between making it clear how threatened some of these animals are and staying optimistic as to the future. It’s possibly too late for some of them, but others still hang on, and with increased public awareness perhaps comes an increased chance of survival. Adams’ character portraits of the conservationists in the field are witty and skillful, and leave the reader with some hope that with (often charmingly insane) people like these devoting their lives to these animals there might be a future for some of them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Titus' Kingdom Dwindles

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field news for March 2009 reports that Titus, subject of the documentary "Nature: The Gorilla King", has had his group size slashed by over 50% in the last year. It is down to just 8, whereas last year it was as high as 25.
On Jan. 27, another female left his group to join the younger silverback Inshuti, and other changes are occurring as well.
"As Titus continues to age, we are seeing a natural transition of power in the world of gorillas," says Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program manager at Karisoke.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Video of Kakapo Chicks

TVNZ reports on the hatching of 14 Kakapo chicks and also has a short, but fabulous video report.
Emma Neill from the Department of Conservation is very pleased with the population growth.

"We have doubled the population in a decade, one of the great things about this increase is that it's due to a lot of young birds breeding for the very first time" says Neill.
New Zealand's Stuff's latest article also features a picture of Kakapo Recovery Programme manager Deidre Vercoe with one of the little birds.
Conservation Minister Tim Groser welcomed the news, but warned of a "long road ahead" before the kakapo's future was secure. "But it's a huge milestone for one of the country's favourite birds."
The EarthTimes also covers the story in a little more detail.
Although Codfish Island is predator-free, the new chicks remain vulnerable and will be hand-reared in a specialist unit to ensure their survival until they can be returned to the wild.

Vercoe told Radio New Zealand that passing the 100 mark was a significant milestone, raising hopes that the kakapo population was reaching a sustainable level.

The recovery programme has been a tortuous process as kakapos are not prolific, breeding and laying eggs only every two to four years.

Stephen Fry Arrives in Labuan Bajo... Just!

Stephen Fry has landed in Labuan Bajo, on his way to the final expedition for the Last Chance To See TV series. He only just made it by all accounts. Their final filming target is the Komodo Dragon. Here's a couple of his Tweets...
Storms in KK mean we've been forced to land in Labuan. Only just made it apparently. They carry bare minimum of fuel... Phew.

Still grounded awaiting permission to fly on to KK. Heigh ho.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

14 Kakapo Chicks! 105 and counting!

A major landmark has been reached with this year's astonishing Kakapo breeding season. Lizzy's Diary entry for March 11 reveals that 14 Kakapo chicks have hatched so far, bringing us up to 105 Kakapos! FANTASTIC NEWS, and there's more to come...
Celebrations of the 100th bird took place on March 8 – well, as celebratory as 32 people can get at 5.30pm two bottles of fizzy between them, shortly before carrying a car battery up a hill and spending a wet-windy night eyes glued to ‘kakapo TV’.

Talking to Graeme Elliott, kakapo scientist, it seems that the team has high hopes for the bird’s future. "This marks a milestone in kakapo recovery – the first time the kakapo have been in three figures for 30 years* and the biggest breeding season in the history of the species’ management,” Graeme tells me. He has been working on their recovery for 14 years from a time when numbers were in their low 50s.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Video: Nature's Greatest Moments - Living Fossils

Here's another Joost video, this time about the lemurs of Madagascar.
<a href="">Nature's Greatest Moments - Episode 118: Living Fossils - Lemur</a>