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.

View Larger Map

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>

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Last Chance To See Books: Re-issue, and TV Tie-In

Thanks to Dave who points out that the re-issue edition of Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, with a new introduction by Richard Dawkins, will be released on October 1st, 2009.

This new paperback edition by Arrow Books is now available for pre-order at

Similarly, the TV tie-in book published by Collins, Last Chance to See by Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry is set for release on October 5th.

Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine finished recording the Whales episode of the TV series very recently. Stephen is currently back in New York, playing with his Kindle2. They only have the Komodo Dragon episode left to film in April.

Calm in the Congo

According to the New York Times, calm has erupted in the Congo with no known rebels threatening the Mountain Gorillas. The article also features a short video report.
Government wildlife rangers, like Mr. Serundori, are firmly in control — for the moment. And Kabirizi, a 500-pound silverback gorilla with a head as big as an engine block, seems to be flourishing in his kingdom of leaves.

"Haa mmm," Mr. Serundori says, emitting a special gruntlike gorilla greeting that miraculously stops Kabirizi in midcharge. “Haa mmm.”

If the endangered mountain gorillas are any sign, things may finally be looking up in eastern Congo.
Thanks to Gwen for this story.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Video: Nature's Greatest Moments - Komodo Dragon

<a href="">Nature's Greatest Moments - Episode 142: Komodo Dragon</a>

Sunday, March 08, 2009

FINAL REMINDER: 7th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Benedict Allen


In aid of Save The Rhino, the Seventh Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture will take place on March 11, 2009. The speaker this year will be explorer and broadcaster Benedict Allen.

I first became aware of Benedict when he presented his inspiring 1997 "video diary" style documentary series "The Skeleton Coast" in which he trekked through the Namib desert with three grouchy camels. He followed that trip with a 3000 mile trek across the Mongolian Gobi desert in "The Edge of Blue Heaven".

Benedict is a sometime guest, and sometime presenter on BBC Radio 4's "Excess Baggage". Here he is in an appearance from 2006: The Adventurer's Spirit in the Face of Adversity.

These days, Benedict is known for his Channel Five TV series Unbreakable...
in which eight athletes are pushed to their mental and physical limits, explorer Benedict Allen takes a look at what helps keep any of us going in the face of disaster.
As to the lecture itself...
It’s an exciting and often humorous talk which draws on his vast experience of survival in jungles and deserts and the Arctic, by himself and others who live at the extremes.

Please e-mail for tickets, which cost £15.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Video: National Geographic's Gorillas on the Edge

Courtesy of, here is the National Geographic documentary, "Gorillas on the Edge". Running time is approximately 30 minutes. Enjoy. Apologies for the preceding commercial.
<a href="">Gorillas on the Edge</a>

Six Kakapo Chicks So Far...

There's another couple of Ranger Diary updates over at the Kakapo Recovery Programme website with news of 63 eggs laid so far, and a good 75% fertility rate. They have six chicks already hatched, four in nests, and two being hand-reared. This brings the total number of Kakapo up to 97. This really is going to be a bumper season, and everyone is working so hard down there. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed, as we could be well on the way to 120 or 130 Kakapo by the end of the season!

Feb 28 diary Chris
Jason Malham, one of the kakapo rangers on Whenua Hou, fitted a pedometer to his hip last week to try to gauge just how many miles he was covering each day. A huge 29km in 36 hours was the answer! Considering the two directions one can travel on Whenua Hou are up and down, this is even more impressive!

Egg and chick checks
Our gracious nest controller (currently the lovely Sharon Trainor from our office in Invercargill) stays up all night fielding radio and telephone calls from all of the nests to let us know what each kakapo mum is up to so that we can monitor their performance as mums and make amendments as required. This could be the most exhausting job on the island perhaps, we have 26 nests so that means at least 52 calls to answer and that's assuming everything goes according to plan! Suffice to stay she sleeps a fair portion of the day away when her night job is over.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Komodo Dragon Mauls Ranger

A Komodo Dragon ranger by the name of Main has been mauled when one of the lizards climbed up a ladder into his hut. has the brief story.
He screamed for help clutching the neck of the still-snapping reptile, said Daniel Ngongo, a Komodo National Park official.
Colleagues ran to his aid and used wooden sticks to force the dragon out of the hut on the island of Rinca.

Elsewhere on the web, here's a nice article by Benito Lopulalan on his visit to Flores, and the story of the dragons in general.
From the moment I arrived in Flores and told people I wanted to see the famous lizards, I began hearing stories.
It is impossible to know which, if any, of the stories are true. Still, they instilled in me a curiosity and respect for the creatures that continued to build as my boat from Flores landed on Rinca Island just as the sun was about to rise. Rinca is southwest of the more popular Komodo Island, but still inside the national park, and within 20 minutes a friend and I had our first encounter with a komodo dragon.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hatchings Boost Kakapo Population to 93

The Southland Times reports that the first of the many Kakapo chicks expected for 2009 have hatched, and has a picture of one of them. Yay!
One of the world's most endangered bird populations is on its way to reaching triple figures after the successful hatching of two chicks this week.

The latest additions born on the pest-free reserve Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) near Stewart Island bring the small population of kakapo to 93 and climbing.

More are expected to hatch in the coming weeks.
Roll on 100!