A six-year-old male brown kiwi named Koa died during the weekend at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. He had not exhibited any warning signs of clinical illness and was found dead in his exhibit unexpectedly the morning of April 26 at the Bird House. As is standard procedure a necropsy, or animal autopsy, was performed the same day. The initial report indicates that Koa had a form of cardiac disease. Further investigations will yield additional information on the type and other details of this cardiac disease.
Koa was a demonstration animal who participated in “Meet a Kiwi” demonstrations three times a week, where visitors could observe him up close and learn about the National Zoo's partnership with conservation organizations, such as New Zealand's Operation Nest Egg.
The Zoo has made important contributions to the Brown Kiwi Species Survival Plan. By using the rearing protocols from Operation Nest Egg, the National Zoo was the first institution to hatch a kiwi chick outside of New Zealand in 1975. Only 16 female and 35 male brown kiwi live in zoos outside New Zealand. Smithsonian scientists are studying kiwi reproduction, and hope to learn how to produce kiwi eggs through artificial insemination and solve unanswered questions concerning the reproductive ecology of kiwis. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as an endangered species.
Hatched March 7, 2008, Koa was the third brown kiwi to hatch at the Zoo. Koa's father Maori and mother Nessus hatched six chicks from February 2006 to March 2012. Another chick hatched at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in 2013. Altogether, the Zoo has seven kiwi in its collection. Kiwi in the wild and in human care can live to be up to 60 years old.
The Meet a Kiwi demonstration at the Zoo will be on hold while the Bird House staff trains an ambassador kiwi.
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Photo credit: Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian's National Zoo