An American zoo has issued a groveling apology after offending New Zealand with its ‘indefensible’ treatment of Paora, a brown kiwi hatched in its care.
Zoo Miami charged $40 a head for a ‘kiwi encounter’, which involved the public patting the bird and scratching its head in a brightly-lit room without a hiding place for four days every week.
TikTok videos taken by visitors to the American zoo show Paora sprinting to a timber box for shelter in his enclosure, then a keeper laughing as he lifts its hinged lid to expose him.
He also knocks the bird over as he handles it.
The zoo evidently commenced its up-close and personal kiwi experience using Paora, which was born in the US in 2019, without cross-checking whether its plans conformed to the animal’s natural behaviour.
Zoo Miami has issued a groveling apology after offending New Zealand with its ‘indefensible’ treatment of Paora (pictured above), a brown kiwi hatched in its care which staff allowed to be patted
Jeseka Kate Christieson, a New Zealander who started the petition, said the zoo promising to end its kiwi experience was a win but its treatment of Paora was ‘beyond a joke’
Aside from being flightless, Kiwis are nocturnal, hunting prey who connect with mates at night.
In the heat of the day, the birds can become dehydrated and die.
A handbook on the best practices for handling of kiwis, which is available to the zoo, says the birds ‘must not be taken out of their burrows just for the purpose of allowing people to see and touch them’.
‘The birds are to be handled no more frequently than … 2-3 times a year for adults.’
The handbook also says humans ‘must not touch the head, facial bristles or bill of the bird’.
The Zoo Miami keeper shown in videos touches Paora’s bill, while the weight of his hand on the bird’s head knocks it down.
Experts have said the touching and bright lights would have placed Paora under immense stress and could even have shortened its lifespan.
Animals placed in zoo enclosures where they can’t follow their natural instincts often do not survive, such as polar bears, tigers, cheetahs, and lions and great white sharks.
After widespread outrage over the videos the zoo stopped the kiwi encounter and issued a grovelling public apology to the entire New Zealand nation.
‘They have every reason to be outraged. We are profoundly sorry,’ said Ron Magill, ‘goodwill ambassador’ for Zoo Miami.
‘Five minutes [on show] is too long to expose an animal to [patting and light] if it is an nocturnal animal.
‘We are profoundly apologetic, I can tell you that we have listened to you… effective immediately that entire encounter has been eliminated.
‘There will be no access to the kiwi by the public any longer.’
Kiwis are considered ‘treasures’ to NZ’s Maori people, who believed the flightless birds survived under the protection of the ‘god of the forest’.
Videos showed Zoo Miami’s zookeeper patting the kiwi in a way that made it fall down. Handbooks on the bird’s care say its head should never be touched by humans
One outraged animal lover started an online petition to ‘Help Save This Mistreated Kiwi’, which gained 12,634 signatures
A TikTok video taken by visitors to the American zoo showed Paora sprinting to a timber box for shelter in his enclosure, but the keeper lifting its lid and laughing
Maori weaved their feathers into cloaks and even included kiwi in Treaty of Waitangi settlement claims.
The significance of kiwis to New Zealanders goes beyond even that, however.
The bird is the best-known national symbol for New Zealand, and since World War I the word kiwi has come to mean ‘New Zealander’.
One outraged animal lover started an online petition to ‘Help Save This Mistreated Kiwi’, which gained 12,634 signatures.
Jeseka Kate Christieson, a Hamilton receptionist who started the petition, said the zoo promising to end its kiwi experience was a win, but should be ‘taken with a gain of salt’.
‘They shouldn’t have started the encounters anyway,’ Ms Christieson, 23, whose body is covered with animal tattoos, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Google is free, they have a brown kiwi care guidebook that not only New Zealanders have to follow, but the 60 offshore kiwi caregivers have to follow also!
‘Our taonga [treasures] are beyond precious to us and we have a lot of mana [life force], a lot of pride for our native fauna and to see it disrespected was just beyond a joke.’
New Zealand’s prime minister Chris Hipkins also weighed into the debate, saying the zoo was right to ditch its Kiwi encounter.
The zoo also apologised with a long social media post, which received a mixed response.
‘You paraded him like a show dog under bright lights and allowed people to handle him. He never should’ve been subjected to that kind of treatment,’ one woman said.
Another added: ‘All of Aotearoa is watching and the majority are appalled’.
Ron Magill, ‘goodwill ambassador’ for Zoo Miami, claimed the zoo was ‘profoundly sorry’
New Zealand’s prime minister Chris Hipkins weighed into the debate, saying the zoo was right to ditch its Kiwi encounter
‘Why was the encounter considered a good idea in the first place?
‘Why is it taking four years to give Paora an enclosure?’
One man wrote that the significance of kiwis to New Zealanders ‘is like koalas and kangaroos combined for Australians’.
Several people called for Paora to be sent to live in NZ, but that has been ruled out as the bird could be considered a ‘biosecurity risk’ having been raised in the United States.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk