In Last Chance to See (1990), Douglas Adams shined the light of fame on the kakapo, which he described as the "world's largest, fattest and least-able-to-fly parrot." In 2009 Stephen Fry is following in Adams's footsteps with a BBC TV show "Last Chance to See: a search for animals on the edge of extinction".
New Zealand's kakapo--the world's only flightless parrot--is one of those species that is so adorable, like the panda, that it serves as a Poster Child for endangered species. All the lifeforms in the vicinity that don't happen to be endearing get saved under its umbrella, the hope goes. Though in the kakapo's case, since there are only 124 left, ferociously protected by humans on one or two isolated islands, there's not much to that argument. It's probably more like a sentimental attachment to our childhood toys. *
What we're really protecting in such cases is our capacity to love something harmless and useless and dear, maybe part of our own humanity we're afraid we're losing.
That was the identification I felt, anyway, that led me to name my first blog "flightless parrots" (2003-2004, r.i.p.). I was reeling from my mother's suicide and the aftermath of the Married Man, not to mention the general freaked-outness of my country, post-9/11. (Also I was working on a kids' book on New Zealand.) I felt like a sitting parrot, prey to every passing predator. I tried to blend in with the vegetation and hide under ferns.
At that point though, I hadn't really cottoned on to how public the Internet is. Hardly a place to hide! After a stranger at a Christmas party told me how much she enjoyed my blog, I felt way overexposed and deleted the whole thing.
Now I've regained my resilience. I've got a starship: I'm not stuck on the forest floor anymore. I got thinking about the kakapo again because I had some correspondence with a New Zealander.
I still choose not to pay attention to who all's reading this. I know I'd get neurotic if I installed Site Meter. But I'm tempted to install it when other people post lists of what google searches led people to their blogs. They're so funny. Anything that hints of sex (watch out if your friends share names with porn stars) generates traffic, even if the post doesn't deliver.
Not to disappoint, the videos below truly do contain flightless parrot sex.
Here Stephen Fry watches zoologist Mark Carwardine's encounter with a "frisky" kakapo.
I like this one even better: Mission: Kakapo Copulation "one of the most memorable, or at very least humourous, displays at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, NZ." (I can't imagine this in a U.S. zoo.) The best moment isn't sexual though--it's the kakapo falling out of a tree at 1:13. Thump.
* Not to sneer: I still have a couple of my old toys. I'm all for hopeless, sentimental causes. Send money to the Kakapo Recovery Programme.