Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kakapo Rescue

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
by Sy Montgomery (photographs by Nic Bishop)

80 pages
published by Houghton Mifflin

Publisher's description:
On remote Codfish Island off the southern coast of New Zealand live the last ninety-one kakapo parrots on earth. These trusting, flightless, and beautiful birds—the largest and most unusual parrots on earth—have suffered devastating population loss. Now, on an island refuge with the last of the species, New Zealand’s National Kakapo Recovery Team is working to restore the kakapo population. With the help of fourteen humans who share a single hut and a passion for saving these odd ground-dwelling birds, the kakapo are making a comeback in New Zealand. Follow intrepid animal lovers Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop on a ten-day excursion to witness the exciting events in the life of the kakapo.

My comments:
This book pretty much has it all - lovable characters, humor, drama, danger, romance, tragedy and a hopeful ending. The Kakapo are introduced by name; all are adorable and full of personality. The scientists who appear in the book take a back seat to the birds, and I think this is a wise choice. Lisa is an attentive mother and Richard Henry is a distinguished senior statesman. One male, Sirocco, was raised by humans and thinks that he's human, too. His efforts to find a mate add humor, romance and danger (one ranger stubs a toe while running from Sirocco's unwanted affection) all at once.
Montgomery and Bishop literally had to wait for years to create this book, so that they could visit the birds at a time when they were breeding. When they arrive at Codfish Island, there are 88 birds. Births and deaths occur during their 10-day research mission (visitors are only allowed on to the island for 10 days at a time). Each hatching egg is attended with great anxiety and celebration, and each death is a crushing blow.

Bishop provides many lush green photographs of the parrots and their surroundings, but doesn't leave the humans out. We see them weighing and feeding chicks and tracking the birds through the dense forests. We even see the author in one photograph, during her magical encounter with a curious Kakapo named Sinbad. There are also photographs of other native birds and even a very cool shot of a bat in flight.

The writing has an engaging journalistic sensibility and (except for sections on the history of the birds and the other Richard Henry, a famed conservationist) is told in the first-person and present tense. Most of the research for the book was conducted on-site, so there are no notes. A few helpful books are listed in the back; four recent titles and one historical book from 1888. The website and mailing address for the Kakapo Recovery Programme are also included.
I think this book benefits from having the right subject, right author, and right photographer all come together to create something very special.

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