Articles, Science

Strigops habroptilus

I have a new article out! “Strigops habroptilus – Kākāpō” is in Becoming Feral, a bestiary project from Object-a Creative Studio, supported by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and the University of California, Santa Cruz. If you’ve ever met me and been foolish enough to enter into the topic of academic publishing, you’ll know that I have opinions, so when I saw this project, which is a strange (but hopefully accessible) attempt at producing specifically creative research, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

Becoming Feral is an exploration of ferality as it relates to the interactions between humans and nonhuman animals. Participants had to pick an animal and create a bestiary entry for them that fulfilled that brief. A lot of those entries – including mine – are primarily written, but there are also some multimedia entries that you can take a look at for free online.

I chose to write a short article on the kākāpō, a flightless parrot endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s very endangered here; at the time I wrote this post there were only 201 left alive. Unfortunately, in 2019 (the year before COVID-19 came to NZ) the kākāpō had their own pandemic. Nearly five percent of the entire kākāpō population died; many had to be isolated from the disease in order to survive. Some had to undergo nebuliser treatment to support their respiration, as contagious spores were attacking their lungs, and the only nebulisers small enough were ones designed for kids. The crossover in pandemic experience, then, was something I found really interesting – what was the feral organism here? The kākāpō, who by the end were helping to weigh themselves in the quarantine facilities provided for them, or the spores that were killing them?

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