Ugly campaign may turn out to be kakapo's saviour

By Ben Irwin

Sirocco the kakapo was described by actor Stephen Fry as having a "Victorian gentleman's face".
Sirocco the kakapo was described by actor Stephen Fry as having a "Victorian gentleman's face".

The native kakapo, one of the most endangered species in the world, has been named on a list of the ugliest animals in the world. The reason? Conservation.

The British-based Ugly Animal Preservation Society wants to raise the profile of some of "Mother Nature's more aesthetically challenged children".

The society, in a tongue-and-cheek manner, is trying to find an "ugly mascot", because, as it points out, the "panda gets too much attention".

As well as saving endangered species, the campaign aims to encourage young people to consider careers in conservation.

The society is asking the public to vote on the "ugliest" animal from a list which includes the blobfish, pig-nosed turtle, axolotl, proboscis monkey, European common eel, dromedary jumping slug, flightless dung beatle, British bat and kakapo.

Kakapo Recovery programme manager Deidre Vercoe was surprised to hear of the kakapo's inclusion.

"Ugly is the last word I would think of," she said.

Ms Vercoe said people had overwhelmingly positive reactions when they first met a kakapo.

"They've just got an amazing face and a curious little nature about them."

While Ms Vercoe disagreed with the "ugly" tag, she was supportive of the promotion of kakapo.

Only 124 of the highly endangered parrots are left, most on two predator-free islands near the bottom of the South Island.

"For the profile of kakapo it's really important that they're well known nationally and internationally," said Ms Vercoe.

Among the notable figures supportive of the "ugly animal" campaign is English comedian and actor Stephen Fry, who met Sirocco the Kakapo, DoC's "official spokesbird for conservation", in 2009 and described the bird as having a "Victorian gentleman's face".

On the web:
uglyanimalsoc.com

- NZ Herald

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