Miami Zoo Says it Will Immediately Stop Deranged Treatment of its Kiwi Bird
Webworm spent all morning nagging Miami Zoo & the Mayor of Miami for answers on its treatment of lone kiwi bird "Paora".
I’ve been on the phone to Miami all morning.
After a bunch of emails overnight, I called Miami Zoo’s media department first thing, who told me I needed to talk to the mayor of Miami. Apparently “big” zoo business was dealt with by the mayor.
So I called the City of Miami’s mayor’s office, who told me the city mayor was of no use to me, and that I’d have to call the Miami Dade mayor’s office. A separate mayor for non-city things.
And so I called the office of Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and when I called they knew exactly what I was calling about. “I’m calling about the kiwi” I’d said, and there was a gulp, because the entire country of New Zealand is currently enraged at Florida.
If you are reading this from New Zealand, you will probably know that Aotearoa is up in arms about the treatment of a kiwi bird at Miami Zoo.
Specifically, they are rightfully enraged that an American zoo has been offering day-time pat sessions of a kiwi bird… in full daylight.
Kiwis are nocturnal. One of their main traits — apart from being flightless — is that they despise daylight.
They also don’t enjoy being aggressively fondled, and they fucking hate selfies.
But Miami Zoo proudly announced their “kiwi encounter” a few months ago, saying “Meet the Kiwi, a rare flightless bird from New Zealand, exclusively at #ZooMiami!”
The whole filthy experience costs less than $25 American dollars.
Kiwis are endemic to New Zealand — so of course the question is how did one lone kiwi bird end up in this hellscape of Miami Zoo?
Turns out a fertilized kiwi egg was sent to Miami by the Smithsonian in 2019.
Back in 1975 the Smithsonian was the first institution to successfully breed kiwi in captivity outside of New Zealand (kiwi are endemic to New Zealand).
Since then, the Smithsonian’s sent fertile eggs not just to Miami, but to other destinations around the United States — eight eggs in total.
New England Zoo was one of those destinations, and they appear to be doing it right — using a reverse light cycle in their enclosure so their kiwi can live its nocturnal life. And there’s no aggressive petting. This is similar to the setup you find in New Zealand, and what I experienced in my Flightless Bird episode on New Zealand birds.
I’d note the Smithsonian doesn’t exactly have a great track record themselves: eight years ago they posted this video of a kiwi meeting humans in broad daylight.
Thankfully the Smithsonian now states that the kiwi are at the SCBI, which is closed to the public.
You’d think they’d have passed the memo onto Miami Zoo.
Oh, as I write this — Miami Zoo just got back to me.
Miami Zoo Releases a Statement to Webworm
I assume the mayor had finally OK’d what the zoo wanted to say in response, which is why its just landed in my inbox at 11.30am ET:
I apologize for the delay in responding to your email but it came in during the overnight hours and I didn’t get to see it until this morning.
With that said, thank you for your outreach regarding Paora, the Kiwi bird currently housed at Zoo Miami. We appreciate your reaching out to us regarding this important matter.
In accordance with Zoo Miami’s strong commitment to the health and welfare of all animals, our professional staff works tirelessly to both support the species within our care and inspire future generations of conservationists.
We regret the unintentional stress caused by a video on social media depicting the handling of “Paora,” the kiwi bird currently housed within Zoo Miami. Please know that your concerns and those expressed by the community have been taken very seriously and as a result, effective immediately, the Kiwi Encounter will no longer be offered.
Zoo Miami feels extremely privileged to be the first facility in the state of Florida to successfully hatch a kiwi as part of a partnership with the Smithsonian National Zoo. We are happy to have watched him grow and thrive under our care and are committed to providing him with the best environment possible while respecting and honoring all that he represents.
He is presently doing well and in excellent health. We are going to begin the design phase of a new habitat that will address all that he needs. In the meantime, he is being kept in a quiet isolated area where he is able to be in the dark and come out in the evening to explore his habitat.
Thank you for expressing your concern, love and passion for this remarkable bird. As an active leader in many global wildlife and environmental conservation initiatives, we are working each day to provide the animals within our care the respect and committed care they each deserve.
Zoo Goodwill Ambassador/Communications Director
While dripping in PR goo, in short the statement’s main takeaways are:
The deranged daytime encounters will cease immediately:
Please know that your concerns and those expressed by the community have been taken very seriously and as a result, effective immediately, the Kiwi Encounter will no longer be offered.
And it sounds like they are going to build an environment where Miami Zoo’s kiwi bird can actually have a nocturnal life. Not sure why they are just starting now, but —
We are going to begin the design phase of a new habitat that will address all that he needs. In the meantime, he is being kept in a quiet isolated area where he is able to be in the dark and come out in the evening to explore his habitat.
This is all a positive move from the zoo.
But I am a little concerned a zoo — whose entire job is to care for animals — had no idea about how a kiwi lives its kiwi life.
A final footnote about Miami Zoo’s lone kiwi is that he’s named “Paora” after environmentalist and iwi leader Paora Haitana. As reported by Radio New Zealand, he attended the official ceremony at Miami Zoo after the bird hatched four years ago.
Naturally, he was upset about how the zoo was treating his namesake. Speaking to RNZ yesterday he said:
“It’s our signature we’re known as the kiwi, so it goes against everything the bird was given to them for.
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.”
I guess I hope this whole thing has been a bit of a reminder that the kiwi still needs our help — not just in Miami, but in New Zealand.
They’re not endangered anymore, but they’re not in great shape. A lot of native New Zealand birds are suffering even more.
Yes, I’m a bird guy — I love birds. I hope people looking at the Paora story become a bit more birdy too.
PS: Kinda weird today’s episode of Flightless Bird is about Florida’s obsession with exotic pets: https://linktr.ee/davidfarrier
Thanks for your persistence. I actually think they shouldn't have a Kiwi at all, but perhaps that just me.
How the hell did the zoo not know how to take care of one of its most unique animals until a bunch of people complained!?
I’m such a cynical person I just can’t stop thinking about all the other animals currently in zoos that are being mistreated.
I’m happy they are making things better but it’s worrisome that they did it in the first place.