They Cuddled a Kiwi. New Zealand Said, ‘Stop That.’

New Zealand’s rules are considerably less strict than China’s, but there are certain requirements for participating zoos. Kiwi that dies must be repatriated to New Zealand for burial. Since 2010, kiwi molted feathers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, have been collected and shipped to New Zealand as “taonga,” the Maori word for treasure.

Kiwi have been at the Washington Zoo since 1968, when then-Prime Minister Keith Holyoake personally presented the facility with two of the birds. Ten years later, another breeding pair was produced. to the Frankfurt Zoowhere they and their descendants have produced dozens of long-beaked progeny.

New Zealand’s program has never gotten the attention China’s has, but its leaders have been keen on the birds’ diplomatic potential. In 2010, then-Prime Minister John Key suggested that the kiwi could be swapped for pandas. “I know people pay $10 million, but we’re a special friend of China, so why couldn’t we give them some kiwis?” told local media At the time. “Two for two, kiwis are worth a lot.” (So ​​far, at least, that hasn’t happened.)

Paora is related to two birds, named Tamatahi and Hinetu, who were presented to the Washington Zoo in 2010, as part of a plan to inject more genetic diversity into small captive kiwi populations.

It was transported to Miami as an egg in 2019 and was named in a ceremony later that year by visiting representatives from New Zealand, including Rosemary Banks, the ambassador to the United States.

But since the Kiwi Encounter video was released, New Zealanders, including Paora Haitana, the bird’s namesake and a Maori environmentalist and leader who was part of that visiting group, have questioned whether it is being cared for properly at his Florida home.

Hilary Aikman, a senior official at New Zealand’s department of conservation, said in a statement this week that the department would raise its concerns with the zoo “to try to improve the housing and management situation.” Mr Magill, the zoo’s spokesman, acknowledged to Radio New Zealand that he had “made a big mistake”. (“Please note that Paora is normally kept out of public view in a quiet area,” the zoo said in its apology.)