Last Chance to See (2009) s01e05 Episode Script

Kakapo

'20 years ago my good friend Douglas Adams spent a year tracking down 'endangered animals together with the zoologist Mark Carwardine.
'Now It's my turn.
Mark and I are heading off to find out 'exactly what happened to those species 'that he'd seen dangling on the edge of extinction two decades ago.
'It promises to be exhausting 'Exhilarating' Unbelievable.
'And exasperating.
'But I wouldn't miss it for the world.
' This is one of the most geologically active places in the world, resulting in a landscape which is as extraordinary as the creatures that have evolved to live here.
We could only be in one place Peter Jackson's Middle Earth, otherwise known as New Zealand.
It's a dizzying spectacle.
Somewhat against my better judgement I've travelled half way round the world to see a parrot.
On paper it seemed a heck of a long way to go, but now I'm here Well, I have to say the scenery has struck me amidships.
It's absolutely stunning.
If this is New Zealand, what the hell was Old Zealand like? What do I need to know about this extraordinary place.
This is going to be a nice, comfortable adventure I think, a bit different to the other trips.
It's nice hotels, good wine, nothing to eat us.
Broadband? No snakes, broadband, no malaria.
That's good.
I have to say, probably the most charismatic of all the animals we're going to be looking for, for the whole trip.
This is the legendary kakapo.
Yeah.
The kakapo is a fat flightless parrot whose name is the Maori word for night parrot.
Though the nocturnal kakapo once amiably waddled the length and breadth of New Zealand, by the time Mark and Douglas visited there were only 40 left, owing to its inability to fly and a habit, when attacked, of standing very still.
This doesn't seem like parrot country, I have to say.
You've given me a scenic view first.
This surely can't be where they live? Well, that's the story, this is where they used to live, Fiordland.
There were tens of thousands of kakapo, this whole valley would have been heaving with kakapos 100 years ago, now there are none left on the mainland at all.
Oh! While I had not anticipated finding the valley heaving with kakapo, I must admit that finding none whatsoever is not the start I was hoping for.
The kakapo are now confined to two tiny islands in the south.
But before we meet them, we need to get to grips with what makes them and New Zealand so extraordinary.
So we're heading north.
We leave a dramatic but essentially kakapo-free landscape for somewhere less dramatic but slightly easier to get around.
And that suits me just fine.
I must say it's an absolute pleasure to be on proper tarmac roads.
What a contrast! New Zealand is the world capital of flightless birds.
And where better to start our own mini tour than with a flightless bird that is still present on the mainland - the kiwi.
Though what you can see on the roads Look there's an outline of a kiwi.
Oh, yes.
Sort of like a chalk scene of crime outline - this is where the kiwi was murdered.
In New Zealand, the kiwi is a national treasure, protected and monitored 24 hours a day.
Dogs have been banned from these woods for years, but there is one individual who is permitted.
Percy, the kiwi hound.
We've come to meet Percy and his assistant, kiwi tracker James Fraser.
James is conducting a survey of the kiwis in this wood to keep tabs on the threatened population.
You can see the way You can see he's got his nose on the ground there.
Yep.
So there's been a bird that's been using this area, so he's just going to join the dots of scent to lead us to where the bird is now.
He loves it, doesn't he, his tail wagging away.
Way to go, mate, Percy, wait.
Has he stopped? Oh, yes, I can see why you give him a day-glow coat - they disappear.
Yes, he's not camouflaged, and nor are you, actually.
No, orange is my favourite colour.
Is it? Steady there, mate! So we've got a bird there now.
He's got one? How do you know, cos he's just stopped?See, he's not coming back.
And that's the sign.
And that's usually the sign.
Gosh, that's fantastic.
You play rugby? You play rugby, don't you? Not for years.
Not for years.
If you go around there aim for anything south of the waist, if it does run What do you mean, grab it if it comes running out?Absolutely.
No-one's ever said that to me before.
That's a kind of scrum-half job, is it? No, actually the blind The blind side flanker.
Good luck.
I'll stand off, as I believe the rugby phrase is.
There's no way I'll ever catch it if it comes running through here.
It's got itself a whole condominium in here.
Really? Come around, and have a look at it.
In there.
You put your head right in, a hard right.
Is it more than one? Here.
Oh, I can see it.
Yeah.
It's in the most impossible position.
Is it giving you a beady look? I can't tell what sort of look it's giving.
'Not the most memorable wildlife encounter from where I'm standing.
' I can see the feathers.
And the feet? Should be four of them.
Four feet?Hopefully.
Yeah, they have two legs each, you can look it up on kiwipedia.
It's right round the corner here, probably underneath this spot here.
All I can see was a big ball of feathers.
How do you know there's two in here, we can see this one, but how do you know?I can see two.
Where's the other one? Right next to it.
Oh, blimey, you're more used to it than I am! 'Ladies and gentlemen Mark Carwardine, the eminent zoologist.
'Well, if our first kiwi won't come out and meet us, then we'll have to 'send Percy the kiwi hound to find a more sociable bird.
' It's looking promising.
Have you found one, James?Yes, I've got one down the hole here.
Have you actually seen it yet?Yeah.
You've seen it? Just try to grip it's blunter end.
You've got it?I've got it.
Aw, fantastic! Oh, goodness, little furry thing.
That is fantastic.
And Percy doesn't even know, he's got his head stuck in the other hole.
That's the way to hold them? They've got very powerful legs, haven't they? Really powerful feet and really sharp claws on the end of them, the front end is a bit blunter.
Nice soft feathers, almost like fur.
The wings were originally this part, just residual wings here.
Just the wing here.
Nothing there.
Not much good for anything.
And they really are honorary mammals, they really take the roll of in the UK it would be badgers or hedgehogs.
They've got feathers like fur and they feed on invertebrates in the forest undergrowth and out in the paddocks and so on.
They are more like mammals than birds in many ways.
They've got a body temperature which it closer to mammals than birds, the legs aren't honeycombed, so they're solid filled with marrow, so they're heavy.
Heavy, yeah.
And when you feel the bird when you're holding itCan I try holding it to see how heavy it is? Yeah do.
So hold its feet.
Quite tight, or? Other way round.
Yeah, the head under the arm.
It's quite heavy, heavier than a chickenIt's heavier than it would seem, isn't it? Doesn't seem to be panicking too much.
Nah, it's part of their defence.
It's kind of let's pretend, let's pretend we're dead, no-one will know the difference.
Hello.
So this one I notice is already ringed, this has obviously been caught before.
The banded population gives us really good information about survival of birds, distribution.
Cos this is another threatened species, isn't it?Oh, very much.
Another bird of New Zealand that's in trouble.
'Kiwi may be the national bird of New Zealand, 'but they're highly vulnerable to attack and are in decline.
'Without rigorous predator control they're easy prey for stoats 'and weasels, but it's domestic dogs that pose the greatest threat.
' You can see how easy it would be for dogs, if there was a wild dog or even a pet dog wandering around here and find it like Percy did He'd have no chance.
Gorgeous animal.
Now, the one ornithological fact that any child could tell you, is that birds fly.
So finding an island where the birds don't seem to be all together, well, bothered, needs a little explanation.
Let me show you what happened in New Zealand, OK.
Right.
Suppose that's Gondwanaland.
Gondwanaland being Africa or being? All the southern continents all stuck together before they started separating.
What's now India and Australia andExactly, Madagascar and so on.
And so if you imagine this bit of Gondwanaland is New Zealand, and it drifts away, and imagine if the toast is the wildlife, do you mind if I tear your toast up?Help yourself.
Are you taking this seriously? No, I am, yeah.
There's lots of different birds, of course.
Right.
Because it drifted away a long time ago before a lot of animals had evolved, and it's only things really that can get here by flight, no people and no predators - that's the key thing.
What happened is over the millions of years all these birds have got used to the idea there's nothing out to get them, nothing going to eat them.
So they were able to evolve happily without worrying about anything, without learning to run or fly away and, in fact, flying is very energy expensive.
Right.
Why fly if you don't have to? Yeah.
And so birds like the kakapo and the kiwi and so on can't fly and they've been fine.
And then what happened was, less than 1,000 years ago, quite recently, people arrived.
Maoris' from Hawaii arrived.
That's the Maoris.
On a milk boat.
And then the Europeans.
Yes.
And people arrived with a whole bunch of animals.
And this is the key thing that's happened to the world known as New Zealand.
So Captain Cook arrives on a boat.
Yeah, exactly.
And on the boat is the ship's cat.
Plus rats, plus mice, probably ferrets.
And they arrived and the animals were, well, frankly, toast.
Couldn't have put it better myself.
What actually happened was more than 50 animals had become extinct just in that 1,000 years, less than 1,000 years.
We've lost all the Moas.
They're the big, big birds, aren't they? Yes, bigger than ostriches, 3.
5 metres tall some of them, amazing birds.
Even taller than you.
That's amazing.
And a lot of obscure ones.
Stephens Island wren.
A few hundred years isn't enough time to evolve the ability to be scared and to run away.
Just drunk the Indian ocean, really sorry.
The Maldives will repeat on me.
From the ancient origins of this magnificent corner of the world to the modern city of Wellington.
While we're here, a brief detour will give Mark the chance to fulfil a lifetime's ambition.
This is a tuatara, which is not a lizard, it's a reptile.
This is something I've wanted to see for as long as I can remember.
It's only found in New Zealand and it looks like a lizard but it's a completely different Looks like a small iguana.
A completely different order, evolved completely separately, they probably separated 200 million years ago, but they live life in the slow lane.
How long can you hold your breath for? Let me time you, I'll see if you're anywhere close to tuatara.
Ready? Two seconds.
How long ago did you give up smoking? Two years ago? You're doing quite well, actually.
20 seconds.
You're going red.
OK, I'll let you off because you're never going to do it.
Tuatara can hold his breath for an hour.
What? It'll breathe so slowly sometimes there's an hour between two breaths, so you'd never have done it.
'You can why Mark has wanted to meet one of these ever since he was six.
'Bless him.
' Back on the trail of the kakapo, this is the Te Papa Museum.
Not only have the kiwi and the kakapo been turned into symbols of a fine nation, they've also been turned into rather fine cloaks.
We'll be shown them by Araputa Hakiwai.
I've come many thousands of miles to see a kakapo, am I actually looking at some evidence? Is this kakapo feathers? It's not all, no.
It's a kakapo feather cloak but it's also a kiwi feather cloak.
The majority of the feathers are kiwi but you have bunchesOh, the coloured ones.
Yeah, gorgeous mottled green ones are kakapo, most of the others are kiwi.
There's a great Maori saying, Stephen, for people who are never satisfied, "You have a kakapo cloak and you still complain of the cold.
" Oh, wonderful.
Because they're so warm.
That's right.
Covered in these wonderful feathers.
Oh, how terrific, they're almost like fur, aren't they? Yes, it's interesting.
Flightless birds tend to have much softer feathers, so the kiwi and the kakapo feathers are really soft, whereas birds that fly have much stiffer feathers, which help them keep in the air.
It's why these birds are so good for making cloaks.
There's not too many cloaks like this.
We do have a number of kiwi feathers cloaks but having kakapo in it, I mean, there's only a few to my knowledge.
That's an indication, not only of its rarity, but the specialness associated with kakapo.
My goodness.
And would they have been collected or is it unfortunately true that the bird would have been killed? Well, this cloak here dates to the mid 1800s, so certainly in Maori history the kakapo would have been eaten.
But Maori throughout the country now have an act of conservation practice to ensure that we continue to have them for the future.
In Mark and Douglas' book there's a description of the kakapo which is very endearing and very charming, but it also mentions that it's rather a smelly bird, is that? It's probably unfair.
This is 150 years old, but it is quite a It's a very sweet smell.
Somebody once described it as smelling like an old clarinet case, can you smell that? I know just what you mean by the smell of an old clarinet case.
It's one of the big problems for the kakapo because when all the introduced mammals arrived, having a distinctive smell meant they could find them easily and so they got rooted out by the stoats and the ferrets and the cats and dogs very quickly, because they could sniff them from a long way off.
So it basically had no defences, did it, really? No.
Well, it wasn't used to have predators, it just sat there.
It's only sense of defence was to sit there and wait and see what happened.
And of course what happened was it got eaten.
Yes.
STEPHEN SNEEZES I think you're allergic to kakapo - that's really disastrous.
It's not just birds that have evolved strange characteristics here.
Isolated from the rest of the world, Matiu-Somes Island in Wellington Harbour offers sanctuary for another creature that's only found in this part of the world The weta.
Here we go.
These boxes here.
This is what's called a weta motel, and here we are, we've got two weta.
'The word weta loosely translates as "the God of ugly things," which is harsh if not entirely unfair.
' It's funny, New Zealanders don't like weta, cos there's another kind called Just close that Called a tree weta which does bite and can be quite aggressive.
But these guys are the Labradors of the weta world.
This one is a giant weta, actually a Cook Strait giant weta is its full name, another endangered animal, it's only found on three islands.
It disappeared from the mainland completely, became extinct a 100 years ago.
Good God.
So it's another cause for concern.
Lots of efforts to try to protect it.
This is a wonderfully harmless gentle giant.
Now I heard somewhere, that when you have a very particular isolated environment and the fauna and flora can sometimes get very big because they don't need to be small, and this is obviously a good example, isn't it? These can grow even bigger than this, three times the size of a mouse in one case, so you can imagine how big that was.
You're absolutely right, it's a trait of island wildlife.
A lot of island wildlife is bigger than the wildlife on the mainland, like the kakapo, that's one of the biggest, fattest parrots.
Do you want to hold it?Argh I don't know if want is the word.
Oh, he's right in your hair now.
Oh, I say! Not bad, is it?Hello, darling.
Do you know, she's actually quite sweet.
One of the great advantages of them being on the island is that it's been rid of all those predators, even though it's so close to Wellington.
And they can live here in relative peace, which is why they're doing so well.
Hello.
Are you all right with him going up there? She's pee'd all over me.
Must like you, it's a sign.
'Weta by name, wetter by nature! 'Well, so far in this series I've met a lot people who, 'how can I put this, well, people who wear sandals.
'You know the type.
But animals need help from all of us.
'Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame, 'decided the weta's very oddness was reason enough to call his special effects company after it.
'In return he donates money to help to conserve it.
' I think every New Zealand child grows up terrified of wetas.
The kids that aren't terrified are the future entomologists and bug experts, that's how they decide on their careers at a young age, I think, they're the freaks aren't scared of wetas.
Weta are currently working out how to make Lancasters fly again for Peter's Dambusters film.
Like most New Zealanders, Peter has hated the six-legged weta since childhood.
If there was a weta anywhere close to me, I'd run screaming.
But you made ones this big for King Kong, where they chased them.
Yeah, well I wanted toI mean, that's me trying to imagine the most terrifying bug that I could ever think of, cos you know, the movie just needed something very, very scary so I just put wetas the size of Alsatian dogs in there, it did the trick quite well.
From one man's personal nightmare to another.
The thing about ground-breaking conservation work is that people rarely choose to do it just a short stroll from a nice hotel.
I'm no fan of boats at the best of times, but here, provisions for the next stage of our journey appear a little basic.
It's also, well, not rough, exactly, but it's a bit bobby.
See if I get seasick or not.
While I have no doubt that the crew are professional and have almost certainly done this before, I'm nevertheless apprehensive about the journey ahead.
Oh, dear.
Not very good at this kind of thing Whoaone more.
Oh, dear God.
OK.
Very fancy.
Suits you.
Thank you.
She floats.
That's a good sign, she floats.
'While Mark enjoys the wind in his hair, I opt for the comforts of the ship's saloon.
' Can you head for a flat bit? 'No, we're not off to the kakapo just yet.
'Mark wants me to see why, in the world of conservation, you should never give up.
'We're off to the island home of a bird that almost fluttered its last in the 1970s - 'the black robin.
The man who saved them is going to show us where it all happened.
'These are the Chatham Islands and this is Rangatira, 650 miles east of New Zealand.
'It was Don Merton who helped create the idea 'of clearing this island from predators 'to make it a last chance haven for the beleaguered bird.
'In the process, he established a template that is now globally recognised as a success.
' HE IMITATES BIRD CALL I'm assuming that's good, but I've never heard a black robin before.
For all I know, it's hopeless.
Anyone see a robin? This is the kind of place you should look, is it? Yes, this is what they like, bigger trees, open underneath, closed canopy and lots of leaves on the ground, lots of grubs.
BIRD CALLS That's the tomtit.
Thanks to them, the robins exist.
Is that right?Yeah, Chatham Island tomtits were the perfect foster parents for the robins.
So you used them to sit on the eggs of the robin?Yeah, and they raised a whole generation of black robins.
But wasn't there a risk that the black robins would grow up thinking they were tomtits? Some of the tomtit-raised robins did have an identity problem.
They thought they were tomtits, and some of them just didn't know what they were.
'The tomtits did their bit, but it was fewer than a handful of black robins that saved their species.
' So remind me, how few robins where there when this rescue effort started? In 1979 and 1980, there were just five left in the whole world, including just two females, and only one of those was a breeder.
God.
And that's the famous female Old Blue, cos you put a blue band on her leg.
On her leg, yes.
And she became a celebrity.
Came down as Old Blue and she saved her species.
Mother of the species, together with you, of course.
With her mate, I was going to say, Old Yellow.
'And suddenly, there it is, the black robin'.
It's coming in.
Yes, I've got it.
Oh, my God, it's so quick.
What I love is that they are so robiny, they have that quick, alert, bright-eyed little manner, just like a robin in Europe, a redbreast, just the same.
They behave the same way.
Yes, it's no wonder they called them robins, even though they're no relation.
Oh, they're not a relation?No.
Different genus.
That's right.
Oh, my! It's fantastic!Look at that! I think Mark wants to get a picture.
Do you think I can just creep in here? Sure, yeah.
'By keeping the island free from predators and intensively managing the breeding population, 'from a single breeding female there are now about 200 black robins on this little island.
' They move so fast, don't they? They're difficult, aren't they? It could be just three feet away from me, flitting about, and doesn't stay still for a second.
'This bird has only been saved because Don and his colleagues 'listened to what the black robins were telling us'.
The message we got from the robins was, they're in trouble, it's because of humans and, er, if they're going to survive, we've got to do something, intervene in a major way, and that's what we did with the black robins.
'The idea of an island sanctuary is a pioneering model that has encouraged 'hands-on efforts around the world, and it's the template for this country's approach to the kakapo.
'This is the place we started, the mountains of Fiordland.
'We know there are no kakapo here.
'But Don has something else that he's dying to show us.
'20 years ago, Don brought Mark and Douglas Adams to a small orange shed on this hillside.
'This was once Don's base for studying the kakapo in the days when they ruled this valley.
' I can't believe I'm back.
I remember coming here so well.
Kakapo Castle, as you call it, is just over here, isn't it, and this was the exact spot we came to.
That's right.
'The visit by Mark and Douglas had a lasting impact.
' The interesting thing about that, um, trip of yours was that it was the catalyst that really raised the profile of kakapo in New Zealand Really?And stirred a lot of action.
That's fantastic.
Even now, people are We receive letters from all parts of the world, people saying, "We've just read Last Chance To See, here's ¤50 to go towards the kakapo".
Mark, that's fantastic.
That's made my whole week.
Douglas would have been over the moon.
I'm so sorry he doesn't know that.
Like you, when he first came, he was a bit suspicious about coming all this way just for a parrot, but he went away absolutely hooked, and I heard him talk about kakapos to so many people.
He did lectures on kakapos, you know, he absolutely loved them.
'There have been no kakapo on mainland New Zealand since the 1980s.
'But Don and his colleagues managed to replicate the black robin project and move the handful of remaining 'kakapo from the mainland to a couple of small islands.
'Special, pest-free reserves offering intensive care 'for one of the most threatened species on Earth.
'And Don is already looking to the future.
'He has a dream that someday the kakapo will be reintroduced to this majestic landscape.
' There is another mainland area that I'm very keen on, and that's Sinbad Gully, just over the ridge here.
Oh, back here in Fiordland? One of the last strongholds of kakapo was Sinbad Gully.
Why is that so good? It's a natural, um, mainland island, natural refuge, surrounded on almost all sides by sheer cliffs, and the sea on the other side, you see.
And so the probability of stoats reinvading is much less.
They're capable of coming over the top four or five thousand feet, but the chances of that happening are very slim.
It wouldn't happen very often.
Do you think that's realistic? Do you think that one day they will come back to the mainland? I certainly hope they will.
That's what we must aim for, self-sufficiency, where we can leave them to their own devices, and if the funds are cut or some other event happens where we're not able to provide that ongoing, labour-intense, costly support, conservation dependency, in other words, we must get away from that so that they're able to survive without us.
We leave Don behind as we edge closer to our parrot.
Invercargill is New Zealand's most southerly town, and it's our jumping off point from the mainland.
At last, I'm to be allowed to get to grips with the kakapo.
But first, there's the small matter of the quarantine procedures.
Right, "Quarantine store clean area".
Wow.
It's a warehouse.
It is, I suppose this is where we Oh, hello.
Um, yeah, just.
OK?Yeah.
Blimey.
Feels like we're about to go up on an Apollo rocket, doesn't it? Something like that, yeah.
Just come back from the moon or something.
It's so pristine.
It's extraordinary.
'We're not, as it happens, preparing for a flight into space.
'Instead, we've been told to wash all our belongings in a vile disinfectant'.
Feels like we're registering at a prison.
You're carrying your stuff You'll have to bend over and have a torch poked up us next.
'Everyone of my most personal items must now be inspected for stowaways.
' That's a perfect example.
Is that a seed?Yeah, it looks like a grass seed here.
Goodness me.
Actually they look rather rancid and old.
That's because they are cashmere.
Do you get many cashmere Paul Smith socks going to Codfish? They're the softest socks! 'Jo Ledington is Head Of Operations on Codfish.
'It is her responsibility to keep the island untainted by the outside world.
' Obviously you're taking seeds off us, but you can't stop a goose from flying over from Stewart Island or from the mainland of New Zealand with all kinds of things in its faeces and its feathers, can you? The main thing for us is controlling what we can control.
And we can control what you take there, so if we can minimise as much as we can.
And so that's why we get you to wash all your clothes in TriGene, and it's horrible stuff, but we don't want to introduce diseases.
Velcro is the most prone to catching seeds, is it?Yeah.
'Having shed every last speck before departing for the island, 'there is just one more tiny thing we're having to leave behind.
' Space on Codfish Island is very limited, so much so that we're going to have to sacrifice one member of our crew.
Common sense would suggest that it should be the most expendable member of the crew, the director, but television has always been contemptuous of common sense, so unfortunately it's our sound recordist, Don.
I'm afraid we're going to have to sacrifice you.
You can't come to the island so I'm going to have to Urgh Unfortunately, owing to the strong winds, we have to land on the beach of a nearby island and transfer to a helicopter to get to the kakapo.
It's quite exciting.
It's very windy, we were warned, which is why we can't fly direct to Codfish.
We're turning around, we're at Stewart Island, and we're going to try and land on this beach.
Looks like there's just enough for the width of the plane.
Having made it in one piece to Stewart Island, all we have to do now is make a short hop to Codfish Island - 25 miles off the southern coast of New Zealand and the main sanctuary for the kakapo.
This is it.
This is what we've been travelling for all this time, it's fantastic.
Somewhere in this forest is kakapo.
I've been wanting to come back here for 20 years, it's just fantastic, never thought I would.
It's about as remote as you can get, this is the furthest south I've ever been.
Is it? To step onto Codfish Island is to step back in time.
This is 3,500 isolated acres of pristine wilderness.
Here on Codfish Island, the cats and rats and other animals that are wiping out the ancient wildlife of mainland New Zealand have been eradicated.
And slowly the numbers of kakapo are rising.
From the 40 total when Mark and Douglas were here, they've crept up to 90.
But it's still precious few.
Right, well.
What do you reckon? So, er, what are you in for? What did you do? I'm innocent.
Yeah, you'll find most of the people here are innocent.
You like it, then.
Yeah, it's all right, so long as you keep your head down and do your bird.
'20 years ago researchers on Codfish Island were about as isolated from the world as it is possible to be.
'Today things have changed.
' Look, wireless, wireless.
Ah, life! How many mobile phones have you got? I've got the one in my pocket, actually it's over there.
I've got a spare one here, a key one.
And I think another iPhone, just in case.
Actually there's probably one or two in here as well.
Just in case.
Well, you can never be too sure, can you? There's another one Jo is just one of a team of rangers and volunteers who spend months living together on this isolated island.
Their job is to monitor the kakapo and to do everything humanly possible to ensure that the birds have the best chance of surviving and increasing in numbers.
Kakapo have a unique mating call.
LOW BIRD CALL It's called booming, and they do it from a small hollow they make called a bowl.
Luckily, one of the parrots here was hand raised so he has made his bowl right next to the hut.
He's called Sirocco and he sounds like my sort of bird.
As any light will disturb the birds, we're using infrared night vision cameras.
He's under there somewhere.
With lots of other night birds.
Yeah.
Which rather lends the credence to your theory that they chose a spectrum that was not taken, you know.
Otherwise it would get lost with all these other calls.
Yeah, yeah.
Oh, there he is.
He's just walked across the bowl.
He's in the bowl or on the edge of it.
Look at that, eyes like little torches.
I can follow it now, oops.
He's almost looking up at us.
LOW KAKAPO CALL His wings open every time he does a boom.
Oh, that's amazing.
Can you see his wings going up and down?Yeah.
Tail up in the air.
And he does this every night? Every night for as long as six months.
Good God.
And does he expect anything in return from it? I mean, they expect a female to come, don't they? That's what they do it for, yeah.
There's a lot of research being done, nobody quite understands what happens, but you get a group of male kakapo all doing their booming, all spread out over the hillside and some seem to be a lot more successful than others, so others will stand idly by or a few individuals get to mate with a lot of the females.
And do the ones that are unsuccessful kind of repine and droop, and, I mean, do they look sad? I know that sounds a very human thing to All Kakapo look a bit sad.
It looks like they've got the world on their shoulders, don't you think? The way they walk a little bit hunched over and head down? I just can't bear the idea of giving up six months of the year to make this noise and every single day and then nobody comes, it's so sad.
(Exit camera right.
) 'It's wonderful the way a species can work its way into your heart.
'And that's not just because Sirocco is so incredibly, well, convenient.
'I spoke too soon.
Daylight brings the almost inevitable trek to look at a proper track and bowl.
'Why settle for a perfectly good example right by the camp, 'when you can slog through wet jungle to one that looks remarkably similar(?)' This is it, Stephen.
Good lord.
This is what we've come all this way for.
I think bowl is a rather kind word, don't you? Well, this is it, this is a track and bowl system made by a male kakapo.
So this is the bowl, they normally put it next to a rock or a tree trunk and this is an old tree root, so it projects the sound.
And look at this view, it's right out over the valley there so it's calling out over the valley.
Oh, yeah.
The idea is it attracts the females that then come up these different tracks, and what's incredible as well, as well as spending all night booming they also garden.
And so if you look down here, that is a completely cleared path, that's not a human path, it's done by the kakapo.
Oh, with its claws and its beak.
Yeah, he breaks all the bits off.
What the researchers actually do, if we get a few bits of twig, just as a little test to see if it's being used by a kakapo, I'll put a few twigs in like this.
And they tend to put them a cross, and then come back the next day and, sure enough, those will have been removed, it'll have done it's gardening, cleared it all nice and ready for some more booming.
On the surface it's about as preposterous a way of breeding as you can find, but I suppose the kakapo would look at a human being and our strange ritual of chocolates and roses and first dates and think that we are the ones who were loony, and maybe they'd be right.
None of that's ever worked for me! No, you should try and make yourself a nice bowl, and have a boom! 'The more I learn about these mad parrots, the more I like them.
'The word in the camp is that this is likely to be one of the best breeding seasons on record.
'My question to Jo is that, given the fact that not a single egg has been laid yet, 'how can anyone know?' I thought for a minute that was one of those, like a tsetse flytrap.
It does look like those, yeah.
What is it? You have a lot of contraptions around the office, Jo.
We do, this one here is a seed fall tray.
Seed fall tray, so you mean the seeds fall in here.
Yeah, so we collect everything from up above and it just falls onto here, and we collect it in a stocking down here.
It's very hi-tech!Female stocking.
It's a very amusing order to put in, isn't it? Seven black stockings, please.
So is it a particular kind of tree, this?This is a rimu tree.
Rimu.
The really important thing about the rimu fruit is that it's what triggers kakapo to breed, so without them on Codfish Island they wouldn't breed.
Do you mean they won't breed unless the tree is fruiting.
Yeah, that's right.
So, they smell it or they see it? That's the key question, isn't it, you're still working on that.
Yeah, we don't know.
We know we need 11% of the rimu trees to fruit to trigger breeding.
11%.
Yeah, it is the magic number.
Have you any idea how many will be this year? We're looking at 39% this year.
39, that's fantastic.
So that's a lot more.
It is, yeah.
So that should, if your theory is correct It should trigger every female to breed on the island.
It could be a bumper year.
It will be, yeah, scientists are predicting between 20 and 40 chicks.
That will be a record for recent years.
It will be.
And that will take you over the magic 100 figure.
Hopefully, fingers crossed.
And with all the signs suggesting a record year, we head back to spend an evening in camp with a group of humans who like to hang around with birds.
And one bird that likes to hang around with humans.
Unlike the other kakapo, Sirocco was hand-reared, so he's imprinted on humans.
That means he's thinks he's one of us.
Oh, hello.
Wow.
He is heavy, isn't he? He is very heavy.
I'm wearing kakapo this season.
Yes, you are.
Look at you.
'You might call this social networking.
' He's got his own Facebook page, has he?He has friends.
As a bird, he should be on Twitter! Go on, give me a kakapo scar, I've always wanted one of those.
It'd be such an honour.
Sirocco eventually waddles off, but he's left his mark.
What I've got here is a sort of raised bump, I don't know if you can see it, you need light in the right way.
No.
Can't you? No.
Are you serious? There's nothing there.
Look at this.
Well, no, there is something there but yours is a red one, mine's a white bump.
I've fulfilled a lifetime ambition here you, realise, this is going to be a nice Kakapo scar.
Not many people have got that.
Yours isn't swollen up, mine's sort of Do you think that will scar? Probably.
I hope so.
At the moment, this place is OK.
Well connected, roomy, almost comfortable.
But in a month this hut will be heaving as more volunteers arrive to deal with the hoped for influx of kakapo chicks.
And the funny thing is, those chicks will probably outlive their guardians.
Kakapo live to be well over 100, though how much over 100 we're still finding out.
It's our first nice day on Codfish Island.
And, of course, Mark is determined to get his obligatory photograph of a kakapo.
The lovelorn Sirocco is so keen to bond with humans he is the obvious candidate.
When we find him, that is.
Is that him? 'But Jo has that under control.
'Like all kakapo on Codfish Island, Sirocco has been fitted with a radio tracking device.
'He's somewhere here.
'So all Jo has to do is tune in and follow the signal.
' Can you see him? Not yet.
Can hear him.
Can you see him? If you stand here.
Is he up there? Where is he? Yes, I can see him, see his outline.
I still can't see him.
Low in that tree there, just that Oh, yes, well done.
I suppose no prehensile tail for climbing like a monkey.
So they've got to use a beak.
Oh, yes.
I love the sliding.
What Douglas said about the kakapo was not only had it forgotten how to fly, but it had forgotten that it had forgotten how to fly, and very often it would sort of jump out of a tree as if expecting to fly.
But I think the current thinking is that the wings, although they are no good for flight, do actually sort of break a fall.
Well, yes, a controlled free-fall is what they say, or, as Douglas says, "Flies like a brick".
Are you going the long way 'round? Hello, matey.
Oh, look at you.
Aren't you the best? That is just fantastic.
It ought to be impossible to describe a creature as looking old-fashioned.
But that's exactly how Sirocco looks with his big side burns and his Victorian gentleman's face.
It's nice seeing him wandering around in the forest undergrowth.
You can see he's got very good camouflage.
He has, that colour is.
.
So evolution hasn't entirely rendered him useless.
Hello, are you looking at the lens? 'A typical male, Sirocco is clearly only interested in one thing.
' Oh Hello!Oh, look at that.
Ow! God, he's got sharp claws.
He's getting a bit frisky.
Ow, ow.
Do you think he's actually attempting a sort of mating? He is.
He is.
Oh, Mark.
Ow, cor, he's sharp.
Look, he's so happy.
Sorry, Mark, it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
You are being shagged by a rare parrot.
He thinks you are a female, he's really going for it.
Wow, you've chosen him Actually, you're in pain, aren't you?That's all right.
Oh, his neck is covered.
Am I? He's fine, but he has really sharp claws.
Not gentle.
Yeah, you've got blood there and blood there and blood there.
We should patch you up, to be honest, because it's not good.
But I want you to call the chick, when you have the chick, I want you to call it Stephen for me.
I'm not sure how to take that.
A little egg will come out of your mouth.
Ladies and gentlemen, you've seen a television first, you've seen Mark Carwardine, who's devoted his life to conserving animals, actually taking an active part in the conservation and breeding of a whole new generation of a whole new species - homokakapens.
He's going to give birth, to a little kakapo.
We're very proud of you.
Do you want to have a go? I think I'll pass, actually.
We've received word that Lisa, one of the 90 kakapo, has set up the first nest of the season.
And where there's a nest, there'll be an egg.
We've been told that we will not be allowed to get close to her, but we're going to meet up with the team who are planning to monitor the first nesting bird of the season.
When we find the team high in the forest, there's already breaking news.
You look excited both of you.
We are, we've just found the first nest of the 2009 breeding season.
And it's Lisa's, which is very exciting for us.
What is it, just a little hole?It's just a big fallen down tree that's still growing and there's a big root network underneath, so it's quite large, you can crawl under yourself if you wanted to.
Really, so it's perfect for her.
Yeah.
She could have a whole family in there.
'Unexpectedly, Chris Birmingham, the man in charge of monitoring, says that he is prepared to allow 'just one member of our team to get shots of the first nesting bird of the season.
' So we've got to be really careful, cos the risk is that if we cause any disturbance then she might abandon the nest, of course, risking not only treading on a kakapo, but treading on an egg.
I have known ability to tread on an egg.
You mustn't move, so I'll go in.
So can you take a miniature camera? Yes, I think that's what we're going to do, then one of us, and maybe that should be me, will go in and try and film it from a bit of a distance.
But we've got to be so careful, the last thing we want to do is to cause any disturbance.
I'll keep guard.
OK, well done, good stuff, fabulous.
'Chris is planning to set up monitoring equipment 'so that Lisa the kakapo's every movement is recorded.
' OK, see you in a bit, Stephen.
Are you off?Yeah, wish us luck.
'While Mark seeks the nesting bird, Jo sets up the monitoring station and I provide some moral support, 'which is more tiring than you might suppose.
' Makes me feel sleepy watching other people work.
'Jo's setting this tent up so that the volunteers can stay up here and guard the nest.
'Thank goodness it's not for me, I have a deep aversion to tents, 'camping and all this outdoor exercise type stuff.
' You may wonder why I'm doing this series if I hate exercise that much.
Damn good question.
No, I'm doing it because I do love animals, and unfortunately animals live outdoors.
They haven't yet evolved, as we have, to the extent that they live in a nice upstairs flat in a city.
When they do I shall be all the happier, I can assure you.
So, how did it go? Oh, my God.
I'm sorry to say, because you weren't there, it was the highlight of the trip.
Really?Un-bloody-believable! The nest is in a sort of a hole underneath the roots of a tree, very far in.
Right.
And we were leaning and putting our head in the hole and I got the camera in and you could see her sitting on the egg, on the eggs, filling the frame.
She's so deep in.
There she is! Oh.
Isn't that absolutely amazing? And it's not bothered at all, absolutely just sitting still.
Lisa is the first nesting bird of the season and Mark's got her on tape.
What a coup! Oh, my goodness, she looks wonderful.
Oh, that's just amazing.
You couldn't see the eggs because she's all over them, but she's obviously, that's obviously what she's doing.
So now, there's this beam right across here, so the reflector is this side.
So like a photo electric cell.
Exactly, so when she moves sort of three inches from there to come out, she'll break the beam, and ring the bell here.
It was actually really quite sad watching it, she's so trusting, and just little blinks like that.
And there's three people, arms in, all around her, setting up equipment, and no sense of, "Oh, my God I should run" or "this is bad" or something.
Or, "I've got protect my eggs.
" Imagine what a swan would do if you tried Oh, you'd be ripped to shreds, and there was no sense of that at all.
You see there's the that's the camera set right in front of her sitting on the egg, the lead that we've just brought back up is attached to the camera and the monitor will be in the tent.
So you should be able to see her on the monitor as well.
Look at that.
Love the blink.
Somehow the blink makes it all the sweeter.
That's so fantastic.
I never thought in my wildest dreams that we'd see that.
'So, with the monitoring equipment in place and a camp erected that will now be staffed 24 hours a day, 'the world can rest safe in the knowledge that if at any time Lisa 'leaves her precious eggs it will not go unnoticed.
' So, Chris, what actually happens when she leaves the nest and it breaks the beam? Well, now she has a doorbell on the nest that will, not so much alert her to the arrival of people, but alert us to her departure.
And so every time she leaves the nest now it comes back with this noise.
CHIMING It'll probably haunt some volunteers for years to come, I imagine.
That's what happens when she leaves and when she comes back, so we know here at the tent that she's departed or arrived.
The kakapo now leaving is the 11.
15 from Codfish Island.
Never, never, never has any animal had more lavished care and attention on it.
It's rather wonderful, isn't it, that this solemn and innocent creature should have people spending nights after nights after nights camping out, looking after, wondering if she leaves the nest, just so that the chick can be born.
I think it is magnificent.
Three months after our trip to Codfish Island, all this effort paid off, as the kakapo population rose to 124, thanks to the most successful breeding year on record.
Perhaps, in the end, this is not a story of birds, but a story of human passion and commitment to go to any lengths.
And that includes travelling halfway round the world.
What do you reckon? You were a little bit sceptical, weren't you, coming to the other side of the world to see a parrot.
How do you feel about it now? On paper it looks odd, doesn't it, a flightless parrot for a whole hour's programme.
Does it really justify? But to me, in a sense it's almost the most perfect of all the species we've been looking at, because it is a sort of copy-book example of conservation and of the way we have to look at the diminishing resources around us, which I'm afraid we have mostly been responsible for.
I mean the way it's working now it all looks very promising, but it still quite a scary It is.
It's proof of that lamentable and melancholy fact that one was taught when one was young you know, you knew it took you five minutes to mess your bedroom up completely but it took you a whole day to tidy it.
It takes one cat That's a good analogy, actually.
One cat to destroy everything, and yet it takes hundreds of humans and thousands, tens of thousands of human man hours to sustain even a small population like this.
This is Sinbad Gully.
Somewhere among these trees are the dusty remains of long abandoned track and bowls.
The last remnants of a time when a fat, flightless parrot ruled one of the most majestic valleys on Earth.
Don Merton has a dream that is shared by a new generation of conservationists.
They hope that someday this valley will be home to the kakapo once again.
And having seen their commitment, their belief, and their tenacity, I would not be entirely surprised to hear that Don's dream has someday come true for the fabulous, ludicrous and oh, so appealing kakapo.
Long live the flightless parrot.
They're big, they're blue and they blow off.
It's not blowing off, it's blowing.
Sorry, you're right.
For a land based creature such as myself, a hunt for blue whales was always going to involve stepping out of my comfort zone.
Mark has saved the best till last.