October 18, 2012
Feathers are quite the fashion asset, especially if you’re an endangered bird like the kiwi. On October 12, 2012 Smithsonian’s National Zoo director Dennis Kelly repatriated the Zoo’s kiwi feathers to the embassy of New Zealand in a Maori ceremony. Watch the ceremony below:
New Zealand Embassy and Smithsonian National Zoo Handover Ceremony To Return Kiwi Feathers To New Zealand.
Kiwi feathers are a critical component in constructing traditional Maori feather cloaks. The ceremonial cloaks made out of the soft brown kiwi feathers are highly prized. Each cloak is given a name and passed down for generations. As one of the leading kiwi conservation programs, we were eager to donate the molting feathers of our kiwis. Kathy Brader, the Zoo’s lead kiwi keeper, explained the cultural importance of the kiwi, saying “This is a way of immortalizing our birds. It offers a means of involving them directly in conservation and cultural recovery efforts, and it takes very little work on everyone’s part. It’s a classic win-win situation.”
Working closely with the New Zealand Embassy and New Zealand Conservation Department of Conservation, we strive to maintain and conserve the well-being of the world’s kiwi population. Along with keeping the world studbook of more than 53 kiwis in 13 institutions worldwide, Brader oversees all kiwi breeding outside of New Zealand. Under her care and instruction, the National Zoo has hatched seven kiwi chicks—four males and three females.
The National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are also pioneering revolutionary methods in kiwi husbandry. In development with the onsite breeding at the National Zoo, the Smithsonian opened the Kiwi Science Center at SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia. The new state-of-the-art building has specially designed pens and habitats for six pairs of kiwi.
Thanks to Brader’s extensive work, the international kiwi program has grown immensely. Conservation efforts continue with the Zoo and SCBI’s new breeding science program for kiwis. This program will focus on studying the behavior and boosting the population using advances in reproductive technologies.
Our efforts to save these rare birds were recently recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For her commitment to brown kiwi breeding and management in North America, Brader won the 2012 Plume Award from the Avian Scientific Advisory for Exceptional Individual Achievement in Avian Husbandry.. As our studies continue, we hope to become the first to pioneer artificial insemination methods in kiwi and to further increase genetic diversity in human care.