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The Proud Pūteketeke – From Zero to Hero

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While many New Zealanders focused their attention on the election results in October 2023, the rest of the world’s attention was focused on the weird dancing, mulleted, fishbone-puking bird known as the pūteketeke and its unlikely bid to be crowned Bird of the Century. Comedian John Oliver mounted a super-sized global voting campaign via his HBO show Last Week Tonight to help it get hundreds of thousands of votes. This wild and zany campaign included Oliver appearing live on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show dressed as a pūteketeke and his team placing voting billboards worldwide.

While all these crazy publicity stunts were happening, Auckland children’s author Peter Millett was inspired to write a story about a pūteketeke chick going on an unexpected journey from being a zero to becoming a hero.

“My children’s story mirrors the ‘Ugly Duckling’ angle of what happened to the real-life pūteketeke. It was a bird I had never heard of before and it was quickly becoming more famous than our national icon the Kiwi worldwide. It was unbelievable. I knew this would make for a funny, entertaining, and uplifting story.”

Since writing his story, Peter has made a great connection with the Southern Lakes Sanctuary team in Wanaka. His publisher Penguin Random House has kindly agreed to donate some of the profits from the book’s sales towards helping build nesting platforms for future generations of pūteketeke families.

The Southern Lakes Sanctuary founder John Darby almost single-handedly revived the pūteketeke population of Lake Wanaka. In 2012 there was just one pair of pūteketeke on the lake and thanks to John and his team of young helpers building nesting platforms there have been nearly 600 chicks hatched by 2024!

The nesting platforms help protect the pūteketeke from land predators such as stoats and ferrets. Students from nearby schools have volunteered to give some of their time to help with the conservation efforts of the revived pūteketeke community.

The Proud Pūteketeke features a facts page at the back of the book which highlights the valuable efforts of The Southern Lakes Sanctuary volunteers and also provides some handy pūteketeke facts and trivia.

The Proud Pūteketeke can be ordered from all good bookstores nationwide.

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