If you happen to exchange presents with Adrienne Wing this Christmas, you'd be wise to open that package very carefully. Recently, the Auckland native got a bit of her holiday shopping done early this year when she paid $400 for a bag of barf, puked up by a bird -- but lo, not just any bird. The pricy vomit is that of a kakapo, the world's largest and most endangered species of parrot, and the money is going towards saving the 129 of them still in existence. Sure, it might seem like kind of a gross way of raising funds for conservation, but it's actually quite ingenious.
Since the flightless birds were nearly driven to extinction a century ago in New Zealand, the nation's Department of Conservation has stepped-up with a recovery program to preserve them, enlisting some much needed support. Not only do each of the 129 remaining birds have names to distinguish them, some are presented as personalities as well. And perhaps the best known among them is Sirocco, a 14-year-old male who rose to celebrity status when a BBC film of him getting frisky with a zoologist's head went viral on the internet.
This video has been viewed over 3 million times on YouTube and has done wonders to raise awareness of the endangered species. Since then, Sirocco has become a social-media darling and traveling spokesperson for kakapos, winning over a charmed public -- including one Adrienne Wing.
"I met Sirocco when he came to Auckland a few years ago and it was a magical experience," she told the New Zealand Herald. "He is such a beautiful bird, a real character, and a wonderful ambassador for kakapo."
So, when Sirocco's keeper had the bizarre idea to auction off a bag of the famous kakapo's regurgitated 'pine chews' on the internet, surprisingly, thousands clamored for a chance at it. Wing, with a bid of $400, was the lucky winner -- with proceeds going towards the Kakapo Recovery Fund.
"It's a pleasure to contribute to the recovery fund. It's a jolly good cause as kakapo are so precious," Wing says. "I might frame it and give it to one of my very special friends as a very special Christmas present."