IWD2022: kākāpō cartooning with Sarah Little

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  7. IWD2022: kākāpō cartooning with Sarah Little

Self-confessed bird nerd Sarah Little spends most days caring for kākāpo. She’s a Department of Conservation ranger out on predator free island Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) protecting our rare kākāpō from extinction. Even in her spare time, Sarah is creating art with a message. Her popular cartoons are making the predator free movement fun and accessible. This International Women’s Day we chatted with Sarah about her love for all things conservation.

Sarah with a kākāpō
Sarah Little with kākāpō Toiroa. Image credit: Jasmine Rabaud

Caring for our kākāpō

Sarah Little loves island life. Out on Whenua Hou, Sarah is amongst the pristine predator free bush keeping our kākāpō safe and healthy.

“On the island, our work varies seasonally,” says Sarah.

“This year is a kākāpō breeding season and currently a lot of my work is at night: camping out on the hill, monitoring nests, checking in on eggs, chicks and mums, and listening out for booming males.”

Sarah knows the importance of the predator free movement for the recovery of our rare species. 

“Presently we are limited for habitat where we can put species like kākāpō without having to worry that they will be eaten by introduced predators.

“A predator free Aotearoa means bringing our critically endangered birds, herpetofauna (reptiles) and invertebrates back to the mainland where they belong,” says Sarah.

Sarah holding a kākāpo
Ranger Sarah Little with kākāpō Manawanui on Whenua Hou. Image credit: Lydia Uddstrom

Advocacy through art

A cartoon drawn by Sarah.
Whenua Hou’s most eligible bachelors. Image credit: Sarah Little

Her cartoons might be funny but their impact is no laughing matter. 

Sarah explains, “I’ve discovered that cartoons are a fun way to share important information about conservation.

“Advocacy is one of the most powerful tools we have in conservation. People can’t care about what they don’t know! It’s amazing how one story can inspire a whole community to get involved.

“There’s a fair bit of science-communication in my cartoons. I hope that people learn something that sparks an interest in conservation. And if not, I hope it at least gives them a good chuckle,” Sarah says.

Inspired by Nora

When asked who inspires her, Sarah replies, “I’m really lucky to be part of a team of incredible wahine. But the most inspirational would have to be Nora. She’s a tough, commendable female, matriarch and leader with a great roosting spot.”

And who wouldn’t find Nora inspiring? She is one of the 91 female kākāpō. Nora has raised generations of kākāpō – boasting a big fluffy family of chicks, grandchicks and even great grandchicks. 

Nora may be an old bird but she’s still alive and kicking. This breeding season, Nora is one of the oldest female kākāpō still out there getting busy and saving her species.

If like Nora, you’d like to get involved in conservation, Sarah has some sound advice for you, “Just do it!”

“It’s hard not to be in complete awe of all of the cool species we have here in Aotearoa and being able to contribute towards conserving their future is the stuff of dreams,” says Sarah.

A kākāpō close up
A kākāpō. Image credit: Sarah Little