Gamers can help YouTube star Sirocco and other endangered birds fight for survival


4 August 2011

Online game has launched a unique fundraiser to help save the kakapo – one of the world’s most critically endangered birds.

The most famous kakapo parrot, named Sirocco, shot to internet stardom in 2009 when a YouTube video of him ‘mating’ with British zoologist Mark Carwadine went viral and was viewed over three million times.  English comedian Stephen Fry, co-host of the BBC documentary and witness to the event, described it as "one of the funniest things I have ever seen."

The beautiful flightless parrot is only found in New Zealand. It is thought to be the oldest living bird in the world. In 1990 there were just 50 birds remaining but, thanks to Kakapo Recovery, there are currently 131.

The internet is again playing a role to help save the birds.  This month players of can buy a Sirocco Kakapo item which when worn, transforms players into virtual kakapo, with a donation based on sales being made to Kakapo Recovery. So far players have responded overwhelmingly to the fundraiser.

“Some might be sceptical about how teenagers would respond to a fairly serious message being injected into a game environment, but we are absolutely ecstatic about the response. Within a day of the item’s release one player had created the Kakapo Awareness Gallery with gorgeous paintings that she’d created herself.  Others have created kakapo conservation groups and educational centres,” says SmallWorlds marketing manager Nicole Scheid. 

“The kakapo is a truly special creature that strikes a chord with people. We knew this issue would be a great way to engage our players in conservation, but we’ve been overwhelmed with how strongly the SmallWorlds audience has rallied behind the cause.”

Kakapo Recovery programme manager Deidre Vercoe Scott said she was delighted with the interest shown in just the first few days of the Sirocco Kakapo item being available.

“We've been looking at ways to reach a younger audience with the Kakapo Recovery conservation message and we're thrilled to find that there is a huge appetite out there for learning about and supporting kakapo work.  Using the right medium to get the Kakapo Recovery story across is key to engaging people and SmallWorlds presents an exciting opportunity for us to link with the 'next generation' of conservationists.”

Launched in 2008, SmallWorlds is a social game world with over 6.5 million registered players. SmallWorlds can be played for free and players earn gold by completing missions which is then spent on customising their avatar, decorating virtual rooms and buying special items. 

You can view the real-world Sirocco’s hit YouTube appearance at www . youtube . com / watch ? v =9 T 1 vfsHYiKY.

He also has his own Facebook page at www . facebook . com / siroccokakapo

For more information about Kakapo Recovery, visit www . kakaporecovery . org . nz.

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About SmallWorlds

SmallWorlds is a next-generation social game that combines one of the best-looking online worlds, social networking, sophisticated customization and a huge range of games, creative challenges and missions.

Members shape the world, selecting from thousands of items to create unique virtual spaces. Whether nurturing exotic plants in gardens, creating digital works of art, and enjoying the companionship of friends in popular hang-out spots, there are a wide variety of activities to suit any mood. Opportunities for adventure are endless, as citizens play the starring role in elaborate movie-like missions – or play the director by creating their own interactive narrative for others to enjoy.

Winner of the top Social Computing prize at the 2009 Adobe MAX awards and growing at a phenomenal rate, SmallWorlds presents an exciting opportunity for brands to connect with audiences that have become increasingly unreceptive toward traditional channels.

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