In memory of Shrek the celebrity sheep
13 Jun 2011
Shrek the New Zealand sheep that lived a hermit’s life in South Island high country and died an international celebrity, is likely to find a resting place at Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand.
The 16-year-old merino sheep, discovered living in a cave on Bendigo Station in Central Otago in 2004 - having evaded the muster and not been shorn for six years - was put to sleep on Queen’s Birthday Monday after his health declined.
Shrek is now lying in state at his sheep station home, pending a memorial service at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo, and while negotiations continue to secure a permanent resting place at Te Papa, in Wellington - hopefully beside Phar Lap, the legendary New Zealand thoroughbred race horse.
Shrek had earned celebrity status as New Zealand’s most famous sheep and - as well as winning the hearts of young and old - had raised more than NZ$150,000 for children’s cancer charity, Cure Kids.
The story of the woolly hermit began with his chance discovery in the hills of Bendigo Station at Tarras in Cromwell, Central Otago.
For six years the merino wether had avoided the annual shearing muster and when found was carrying a 27kg fleece - enough wool to make suits for 20 men. New Zealand is renowned for producing high quality merino wool for the clothing industry, and an average merino fleece weighs around 4.5kg.
Images of Shrek with his woolly dreadlocks captured the fascination of media. He was shorn live on television and the pictures were broadcast worldwide.
Shrek became a national icon, in demand on the celebrity circuit, and made numerous public appearances including a visit to New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings to meet then Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Darling of the nation
Sheep farmer owner John Perriam, who masterminded Shrek’s extensive charity work and long-running publicity campaign, said it was the sheep’s unbelievable personality that made him the "darling of the nation".
"He loved children and he was really good with the elderly in retirement homes," John Perriam said.
To celebrate his 10th birthday, 30 months after his initial shearing, Shrek was shorn again - this time on an iceberg which had broken away from the Antarctic ice shelf and was floating off the coast of Dunedin.
Proceeds from the sale of Shrek’s wool raised more than NZ$100,000 for Cure Kids, and throughout his high profile career the sheep was a constant ambassador for the charity.
Cure Kids director Josie Spillane, who had Shrek as a guest at her wedding, says negotiations are continuing between Te Papa and Hollywood studio DreamWorks regarding permission to use the Shrek trademark.
A decision was also being made about appointing an appropriate expert taxidermist who would give Shrek "the respect he deserves," said Spillane.
The famous sheep’s memorial service has been put on hold awaiting the arrival of international media. Some correspondents are already in New Zealand covering the story and Australian film-makers have expressed interest in a documentary.
Otago Museum says it is also keen to provide a home for Shrek as he is an Otago icon but would respect Shrek's owner's right to decide where the sheep would end up.
Shrek became the subject of three books and featured prominently in a fourth - raising funds for Cure Kids and the local Tarras School, near Bendigo, as well as lifting the profile of New Zealand’s wool industry.
‘Father’ John Perriam says Shrek’s last will and testament was published in his book and if put on display would be seen wearing his red coat, first used to keep him warm after he was shorn in 2004.
"I am trying to think what New Zealand would want. I've acted in the best interests of Shrek for the last seven years and I have seen how much pleasure he has given the elderly and the children throughout New Zealand and even internationally."
Shrek's story had become stronger since he was put down, said Perriam.
"That's the bit that has blown us away, is how this has gone around the world in his passing, because its seven years ago that he hit the headlines.
"It's so deeply embedded the story now, it's something that will stay with New Zealanders for generations."
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