The Miami Zoo has apologized for mistreating the famed kiwi bird.
A zoo in the United States has apologized for mistreating a kiwi after video of visitors touching the nocturnal bird under bright lights sparked uproar in New Zealand.
Zoo Miami apologized and stated it was “deeply sorry” for the event, which occurred during a paid animal encounter between the kiwi and zoo tourists.
The kiwi experience is no longer part of the zoo’s programs.
Pora was born in Zoo Miami in 2019 as part of a breeding program aimed at preserving the survival of the kiwi species.
The flightless kiwi bird, considered a national icon in New Zealand, represents the country’s distinctive natural heritage and serves as the inspiration for the country’s nickname.
In footage that went popular on social media on Tuesday, Pora was visibly upset as guests patted it under the lights, at times attempting to withdraw into darkness.
In New Zealand, the outrage was immediate and broad, sparking an online petition and comments from Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who congratulated the zoo for taking public concerns seriously.
“They’ve acknowledged that what they were doing wasn’t appropriate, right, or fair to Kiwis,” Mr Hipkins said at a press conference.
A zoo official told Radio NZ that the paid visitor encounter was “not well conceived,” and that “we were wrong.”
“We give you our word that the public will never handle Pora again,” said Ron Magill, communications director.
According to Zoo Miami, efforts are “underway” to develop a customized habitat that will provide him with the shelter he requires while simultaneously teaching people “about the amazing kiwi without any direct contact.”
Kiwis are treasured by all New Zealand communities and are considered a Mori cultural asset; they are extremely unusual to be maintained in captivity.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation said it would meet with the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums to “address some of the housing and handling concerns raised” following the incident involving Pora on Tuesday.