Celebrity Animals in NZ for International Students to Admire
This is our list of the lovable, wonderful and legendary creatures that have gained celebrity status around the nation. Some of them are alive, some have moved on, all of them will be remembered as NZ icons.
Sirocco the kākāpō
The official Spokesbird for conservation (as deemed by then Prime Minister John Key in 2010, Sirocco named for the hot desert wind of North Africa, was born in March 1997. It is said that kākāpō can live up to 60 years and Sirocco also taught us that kākāpō can swim. Because he had a respiratory illness when he was young, Sirocco was hand-reared, and this meant that he developed an attachment with people. He normally lives with other kākāpō on Fiordland Island but he will sometimes go on tours of the country – you can keep up to date with his movements by following him on Facebook.
Mittens the cat
This Turkish angora cat that has a whole city in his paws, Mittens was recently given the key to the city and is getting his own mini exhibition at Wellington museum: Mittens - Floofy and Famous. Loved city-wide for his friendliness and wandering nature, you can find him on the streets, in shops, office buildings and restaurants. He has been known to stop for traffic lights and loves to find a place in town for a nap. You can follow his exploits on the Wondrous Adventures of Mittens Facebook page.
Opo the dolphin
This playful bottlenose dolphin became famous in NZ in 1955 when she began playing in the shallow waters at Opononi on the Hokianga harbour. Opo had a song and documentary made about ‘him’ but it was later discovered that ‘he’ was a ‘she’. She died in 1956 due to an explosion using gelignite, a material used by fisherman – it was said that fisherman didn’t like her playing close to their boats and eating the fish that were bound for their nets. She was buried near Opononi Memorial Hall, close to where she found fame. A statue was created in her memory (see above) and still stands today at Opononi.
Shrek the sheep
Shrek was a sheep that lived for 16 years and shot to international fame in 2004 when he avoided being caught and shorn for 16 years. He hid in caves to avoid his annual shearing and when he was finally caught his shearing became a national event as he was shorn on live television. His Merino fleece weighed an astounding 27kg, compared to the average Merino fleece that weighs around 4.5kg. Shrek died in 2011.
Kashin the elephant
Spending most of her life in Auckland Zoo, she became a NZ icon after her sponsorship by ASB bank, who manufactured moneyboxes using her likeness. She also appeared on NZ TV Programme The Zoo, which featured all of the Auckland Zoo animals and workers. She was named Kashin because it means “compassionate” in Hindi and was a play on the words ‘cash-in’. Kashin passed away in 2009 aged 40, with the Zoo closing its doors to allow staff to grieve the friendly and magnificent elephant. The zoo currently has two elephants and one of them, Burma, has been there since 1990, when she arrived as an eight-year-old.
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