World media drawn to story of Nigel the lonely gannet

From Sunday Morning, 7:45 am on 4 February 2018

The ranger on Mana Island, north of Wellington, has been inundated with calls from international media after the death of Nigel the gannet on the island he looks after.

Nigel the gannet and his concrete friends on Mana Island.

Nigel the gannet and his concrete friends on Mana Island. Photo: Philippa Sargent

For some time Nigel has been the only real gannet on Mana Island, off the Kapiti Coast, and had become something of an ambassador for the Department of Conservation.

The headlines read "Nigel the lonely gannet dies on an island surrounded by concrete birds" and "Nigel the lonely gannet found dead beside his concrete love".

Newspapers such as the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Post have reported it, as well as the BBC, after picking up the story by a New Zealand journalist, Virginia Fallon. 

Real gannets used to nest on the Island, until pests drove them away. So, in 1998, after the rats were eliminated, a decoy colony was installed to attract gannets there, by way of 80 concrete gannet sculptures.

In 2013 a single gannet landed at the colony, the first to do so for almost half a century. Unfortunately, he arrived on his lonesome, leading volunteers to nickname him "no mates" Nigel. The name stuck.

Instead of attracting a partner and breeding, Nigel settled for a concrete mate.

Last week Nigel's body was found in the nest he had made for his concrete partner. 

Chris Bell from the Department of Conservation lives and works on Mana Island and knew Nigel well.  He talked to Sunday Morning's Wallace Chapman.