The Smithsonian's National Zoo is a global leader in brown kiwi conservation largely because of Animal Keeper Kathy Brader's efforts, and her devotion to this endangered species was honored recently by New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key. On Jan. 1, Key appointed Brader an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He recognized her devotion to kiwi public education and outreach, as well as her success in breeding these unique birds and propagating the species.
Brader began her career at the Zoo's Bird House in 1986, just nine years after the Zoo became the first institution outside of New Zealand to hatch a kiwi. Kiwi in zoos are extremely rare. Only five zoos outside of New Zealand have successfully bred these unique birds. Under Brader's care and instruction, the Zoo successfully hatched and raised six kiwi—three males and three females—between 2005 and 2012. The Zoo currently has seven kiwi in its collection. Five live at the Rock Creek campus, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., also has a breeding pair of kiwi.
Since 2005, Brader has served as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan coordinator and studbook keeper for all brown kiwi outside New Zealand, which includes more than 53 kiwi in 13 institutions in North America, Europe and Asia. In this role, she matches kiwi and their mates by considering factors such as health, sexual maturity, breeding capability and personality. For her commitment to brown kiwi breeding and management in North America, Brader won the AZA 2012 Plume Award from the Avian Scientific Advisory for Exceptional Individual Achievement in Avian Husbandry.
Working closely with the New Zealand Embassy and New Zealand Department of Conservation, Brader and the National Zoo strive to maintain and conserve the well-being of the world's kiwi population. On Oct. 12, 2012, Brader arranged for Zoo Director Dennis Kelly to repatriate the Zoo's kiwi feathers to the embassy of New Zealand in a Maori ceremony. This strengthened the Zoo's role in New Zealand's conservation and cultural recovery efforts.
Brader was instrumental in creating the United States' only Meet a Kiwi program at the National Zoo, where visitors can observe these birds up close and learn about the Zoo's partnership with conservation organizations, including Operation Nest Egg. Meet a Kiwi takes place in the Bird House every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m.