I have been a kākāpō ranger for several years now and work predominantly on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island). I used to be a duck person, having undertaken my MSc on pateke (brown teal) and working with the species in Northland, Auckland and Hawkes Bay and with waterfowl and cranes in Wisconsin and Alaska – now I’ve switched addictions to kākāpō.
Aside from working with some ridiculously charismatic birds in a stunning pristine environment the things I love about the project include the awesome cutting edge technology we have to monitor the species and how it allows us such great insight into what they are doing so that we can manage them effectively in as hands off a manner as possible. I also find it exciting that although we know a lot about kākāpō there is still so much to learn – like how old they are and how to age them, which seems like it should be a simple thing but kākāpō keep their secrets close. We also get to work with a lot of different and interesting people, from our volunteers who come from around NZ and the world to help us, to parrot specialists, government ministers, veterinarians and film crews.
As a ranger, the work is varied, from radio-tracking birds, giving them health checks, looking after chicks in nests and hand-rearing chicks to managing volunteers to run the supplementary feed-out programme, maintaining the islands facilities and organising the day to day logistics of living on an island. This job is a lifestyle, you must be prepared to share your living space with sometimes LOTs of people, get very comfortable with your workmates, and work long and odd hours which are often quite physically demanding. But the payoff for me is knowing that what I do on a day-to-day basis is vital to the success of the species. And luckily we get to see that in a very tangible way; as chicks grow-up and leave home, or a young male starts booming for the first time, treating a sick bird and bringing it back to health. I’m very proud of what our team achieves and it gives me hope for the future of the species.