New Zealand Loses It Over Miami Zoo's Handling of a Kiwi

'We have offended a nation,' the zoo admitted
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2023 10:25 AM CDT
Miami Zoo Let You Pet Its Kiwi. New Zealand Freaked Out
Paora.   (Zoo Miami)

Don't underestimate New Zealanders' love for the kiwi bird—or how fiercely they'll respond to the perceived mistreatment of it. And mistreatment is what they say occurred at Zoo Miami, which houses a kiwi named Paora. Though kiwis are "reclusive and nocturnal," per the Guardian, videos posted on social media Tuesday showed Paora being petted and otherwise handled under bright fluorescent lighting by zoo visitors who paid $25 for the chance to do so. The reaction was swift and included both complaints made to the zoo and a petition that took umbrage at how Paora was "petted on his sensitive whiskers, laughed at, and shown off like a toy."

Even the government got involved: New Zealand's Department of Conservation indicated it planned to discuss the situation with the American Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins noted that the quick response made clear how much pride Kiwis take "in our national bird when they're overseas." The Guardian tries to get at the "why," explaining that New Zealand has no native land mammals but does have native birds, many of which are currently endangered.

Zoo rep Ron Magill on Wednesday admitted the zoo "made a huge mistake here ... I immediately went to the zoo director, and I said, 'We have offended a nation.'" He added, per the New Zealand Herald, "I am so sorry. I am so remorseful. Someone asked how would you feel if we did that to your bald eagle, and you're 100% right." He said Paora has been pulled from the bright lights and will no longer be subjected to the paid "kiwi encounters."

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The zoo added in a statement that "plans are presently underway to build a special habitat for him that will continue to provide him with the shelter that he needs while respecting and supporting his natural instincts. It will be developed in such a way that we can teach our guests about the amazing kiwi without any direct contact from the public." (More New Zealand stories.)

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