By Robbie (age 9) from KCC North Canterbury:
Kara the Kākāpō by Danni Rae, and illustrated by Evan Heasman, is a book about a kākāpō that can’t fly and wants to. She tries, and tries, until she finds a way. I liked this book because the drawings are colourful and look like the Aurora Australis. I loved the facts at the end as well. It is especially good for kids under 7, but everyone would like it!
I did an interview with the author for KCC.
Interview with Danni:
Where do you work? I work in Wellington Zoo and I have been a zookeeper for 6 years. I grew up in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia.
What animals do you work with? I work with carnivores, like the otters, meerkats and our sun bear, and primates like the tiny pygmy marmosets and the chimps
Which is your favourite animal to work with? All of them are great! I really like the red pandas, and the sun bear (who is sassy and gorgeous!), and the cute pygmy marmosets who have just had triplets.
How did you become a zookeeper? When you are in High School, you can volunteer at the zoo to get practical experience. You don’t just have to be a zookeeper to work at the zoo, you could be a vet or vet nurse as well for example. Unitec gives zoo keeping courses. Most people work with lots of species to start with then then specialise with a few.
How do you get animals to the zoo in the first place? It is easier with smaller animals! In Wellington we used to have trouble with bigger animals because of the old electric bus wires but they are gone now. Some animals, like the lions, came from overseas in the cargo hold of planes but the giraffe came in a ship! They will need medical checks and vaccines and to spend time in quarantine when they arrive as well.
Tell us about your time in Madagascar. I had a great time! I spent one month living in a little hut in the forest where I did a survey of all the animals. Madagascar is an island and like New Zealand has lots of unique animals, but they get very little protection there. Some new species like the Asian common toad are pushing out the native frogs. There is a lot of poverty on the island. We would walk a transect line, which was a straight line through the forest, and we walked it at dawn, at night and during the day to identify the animals. We had a lot of help from local rangers who could identify animals just by their calls. There was a bit of a language barrier, but we managed and used to call the plants and animals by their Latin names to help! I was some way outside a little village which was itself a long way from the nearest town.
Why did you want to write a book? I loved books as a kid and love helping people connect with animals, and writing a book about animals brought those interests together. I am really happy how Kara the Kākāpō turned out, and how much the illustrations add to the story. Kākāpō are a beautiful bird and I am delighted to be able to showcase them. When the book was being published, I was walking Te Araroa trail and would have to have meetings with my editor and publisher whenever I could get phone reception, sometimes even at the top of a mountain!
Are you worried about the kākāpō surviving? Yes. We have more than 202 individual birds now and one of the biggest challenges is finding new predator-free space. There isn’t much genetic diversity either because there have been so few kakapo. I hope we can create the space and even reintroduce them to places like Rakiura in the future.
Are you going to write more books? Yes! I want to put in more conservation points in the next one, and it will be about a hermit crab. Evan Heasman is going to be illustrating this one again as well.
How can kids help with conservation? There are loads of ways to help- you can start at home in your own backyard and make it a haven for wildlife. Getting involved with groups like the KCC is great, and there are local community groups you can join to help with beach-cleaning and planting. If you have your own idea don’t be afraid to get it out there either – the best thing will be lots of people doing lots of little things!