A video of a kiwi at a Florida zoo being petted and put up for selfies has caused outrage online, with concerned New Zealanders launching a petition to “help save” the bird.
Visitors to Miami Zoo were getting the chance to pay for an up-close encounter with Paora the brown kiwi, who an expert says would be “terrified” by the experience.
Paora was hatched at the zoo in April 2019, from an egg laid by a bird at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C.
Kiwi encounters at Zoo Miami were cancelled after disturbing footage emerged of visitors handling the bird under bright lights.In the video the zoo posted to social media, visitors surrounded the kiwi as he sat on a table under bright lights, despite being a nocturnal creature.
The keeper in the video said “He loves being pet, he’s like a little dog and he loves his head being pet.”
The Department of Conservation in NZ had said it was taking its concerns to the zoo over how the bird was being treated.
Zoo Miami communications director Ron Magill told First Up they were wrong and had “offended a nation.”
The bird was named in honour of New Zealand environmentalist and Kiwi leader Paora Haitana, who was part of a delegation that visited Zoo Miami for an official ceremony after the kiwi hatched in 2019.
“It’s a taonga and absolutely it was given in good faith that it would be managed, controlled and looked after by Miami Zoo, so it’s a concern, huge concern.”
The zoo’s website had advertised the kiwi encounters for US$25 as an experience guests would “cherish forever.”
Overnight, the zoo announced it had taken the concerns expressed very seriously and the kiwi encounter would no longer be offered – effective immediately.
“When I saw the video myself I said ‘we have made a huge mistake here,” communications director Ron Magill told First Up.
“I immediately went to the zoo director and I said ‘We have offended a nation. This is something that has to stop immediately’.”