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Zoo Miami apologizes after kiwi fruit meets wrath of New Zealanders

A Florida zoo has apologized for offering an “encounter” where visitors could pet a kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird, following outrage in the animal’s home country. He said he had stopped practicing.

An online petition to “help save” Paora, Miami Zoo’s nocturnal flightless bird, garnered more than 10,000 signatures in two days this week. Video broadcast by New Zealand outlet 1 News showed the creature taken out of its enclosure and patted firmly as one of the zoo’s close animal encounters, which are on offer for $23.36.

Jeseka Christieson, the New Zealander behind the petition, wrote on the website that kiwis were precious, not “America’s toys”. The bird is so loved by New Zealanders that humans in the country are often referred to as “Kiwis”.

“He has been tamed and is subjected to fluorescent lighting four days a week, handled by dozens of strangers, stroked over his sensitive whiskers,” she wrote. “Kiwis are nocturnal animals, which should be kept in appropriate dark enclosures and handled as little as possible.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, at a press conference on Wednesday, thanked Zoo Miami for shutting down the dating program. “They recognized that what they were doing was not appropriate, or not right, or not right, for the kiwi,” he said.

In a statement posted on its website Tuesday, Zoo Miami offered “our deepest and most sincere apologies.”

“The development of the kiwi encounter was not well designed, in hindsight,” he said.

Miami Zoo communications director Ron Magill told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that “I immediately went to the zoo director and said, ‘We have offended a nation,'” after watching the video. of the encounter. He said Paora would no longer be in contact with the public or exposed to fluorescent lights.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Kiwi Best Practice Manual states that “kiwifruit should not be routinely taken out of their burrows solely for the purpose of allowing people to see and touch them”.

It allows a kiwi to be gently patted on the back by members of the public if the bird was already being handled for another reason, such as a rehabilitation, site transfer, or routine health check.

But it says the public “must not touch the bird’s head, facial hair or beak,” as seen in video of the Miami Zoo encounter.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said on Tuesday on Twitter that “offshore kiwis are managed separately,” but that would be “discussing the situation” with the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Paora was born at Zoo Miami in 2019. Kiwis in captivity are “extremely rare,” according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Rosemary Banks, New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States at the time, won the naming rights and chose to honor Paora Haitana, a Maori leader and conservationist who was also present at a naming ceremony at the zoo this year.


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