YouTube Transcription #36 Last Chance To See

My favourite novelist, Douglas Adams, who sadly died in 2001 at the age that I am at the moment, made a BBC radio series with zoologist Mark Carwardine called “Last Chance To See”. In this series the two men, a recording engineer and a photographer, went around the world to see endangered animals. Later, Adams wrote a book with the same title, which is one of my favourite books of all. Unfortunately, he never made a TV show of this, but several years after Adams’s death his good friend and fellow Cambridge alumnus, writer, actor, comedian, TV show host, documentary maker and lecturer Stephen Fry followed Adams’s course with a TV crew.

Fry: It really is wonderful to be here on Codfish Island, where the kakapos are. They’re such extraordinary birds, they are… well they’re like a whole chapter of the Guinness Book Of Records. They’re the fattest and largest parrot on Earth. The only nocturnal one, they’re the only flightless one, and they are far-and-away the rarest. There are only nineteen of these animals left in the whole world, and they’re here on this island, which is still part of the British Empire, or whatever it calls itself these days. And, of those nineteen, only one, just one, thinks it’s a human being. There’s a bird thing called “imprinting”, you may have heard of, where basically, like some sort of fairy tale, the first thing a chick sees when it wakes up after coming out of the egg, it believes to be its mother. Erm, the first living thing, I suppose. So if it happens to be a human being the bird will think it’s a human being, and that’s the story of “Sirocco”. The only… “tame” isn’t quite the word, the only “human”, if you like, kakapo, in its own opinion at least, on Earth. Mark and I had a heck of an experience with Sirocco last night. He just goes all over you. He’s on your head, he’s scratching at you and pecking at you, and, let’s be honest, trying to, er, trying to have congress with you in intimate ways, and you have to keep reminding yourself: This… this is… this is one of nineteen kakapos left, and when Mark and Douglas Adams came here twenty years ago there were only fourteen. So, maybe, if I’m spared, I’ll come back in twenty years’ time, there’ll be a good three-figure, maybe even a four-figure sum of kakapos. One of the things I’m learning, though, is that it takes a lot of human beings to look after one kakapo, the way the world is at the moment. More of that later.

Expressions used:
“Far-and-away” means “by far”
A chick is any young bird
To “have a heck of a time/an experience” can mean either a great or hard time/experience, depending on the situation. I think in this case it is a combination of both. I think “heck” is a variation of “hell”, and so originally it meant a hard or bad time.
“If I’m spared” means “If I’m still alive”
“Three-figure” means over 100, and “four-figure” means over 1000.
“Good” is often added to a vague number like these, to add strength. So “a good three-figure” means “a lot over 100”.