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National Zoo Mourns Death of Male Kiwi

A six-year-old male brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) named Manaia died Saturday, May 26, at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. He had not exhibited any warning signs of clinical illness.

Typically, kiwi are aggressive, but Manaia exhibited a calm and friendly personality. He had the sole distinction of serving as an educational ambassador for his species in the Zoo's Meet a Kiwi program, where visitors could observe Manaia up close and learn about the Zoo's partnership with conservation organizations, such as Operation Nest Egg. The Zoo has temporarily suspended this program while keepers prepare Mania's younger brother, Koa, to participate. The National Zoo has the only such kiwi program in the country.

Born Feb. 13, 2006, Manaia was the second brown kiwi to hatch at the Zoo, which has had success breeding these birds since 1975. The Zoo has contributed greatly to the Brown Kiwi Species Survival Plan; Maori (father) and Nessus (mother) produced six chicks from February 2006 to March 2012. Currently there are only 16 female and 35 male brown kiwi in zoos outside New Zealand. The Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., also has a breeding pair of kiwi. Altogether, the Zoo has eight kiwi in its collection. The lifespan of wild and captive kiwi can be 60 years.

Most Zoo animals participate in a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan. The SSP scientists determine which animals breed by considering their genetic makeup, nutritional and social needs, temperament and overall health. Manaia was not paired with a mate and did not sire any offspring. Zoo pathologists conducted a full postmortem examination, and a final report may provide more information in the next few weeks.

Native to New Zealand, brown kiwis are nocturnal, flightless birds whose adaptations more similarly resemble those of mammals than birds. They lay the second-largest eggs of all birds in relation to their body size. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the brown kiwi as an endangered species.

The Zoo currently has one adult, Toru, on exhibit. MĂori, Nessus and two of their offspring are off exhibit. Visitors to the Zoo's website can watch one of the Zoo's young kiwi, Omana, forage in her nest box via the Kiwi Cam.