This is the only kiwi anywhere in the UK and one of only a handful in Europe. Keepers believe this is the first kiwi Paignton Zoo has ever kept. The five year old male named Manu is a brown or Northern kiwi – an Endangered species – and has come to Devon from Frankfurt Zoo in Germany.
Preparations for his arrival included asking the Torbay Metal Detectors Club to search the enclosure for potentially dangerous bits of metal. Club member Tom Hurren said: “It’s the most unusual request for metal detectoring we have ever had! It was quite a challenge because of the size of the enclosure – and it’s the first time I have actually been asked to look for rubbish!”
Senior Head Bird Keeper Peter Smallbones: “They have a bad habit of consuming things they shouldn’t. They can be fussy eaters and don’t take to new foods easily, but they love bits of wire and silicon. They probe the soil with their long beaks and can dig up bits that aren’t usually exposed and so aren’t a risk to most bird species.”
Curator of Birds Jo Gregson added: “Kiwis need special care and attention. Each one is an individual. The substrate is important because they probe down into the ground. You have to sieve sand and check dry leaves before you put them in.”
Conservationists allocate males to collections so keeping staff can perfect their husbandry skills – they then apply to hold a pair. Jo: “It will be at least two years before we are in that position.” Kiwis can live for more than 40 years.
Paignton Zoo has put up a TV screen near the Avian Breeding Centre to help visitors catch a glimpse of the bird, which sleeps during the day.
The kiwi is a flightless bird about the size of a domestic chicken that’s part of the ratite family, which includes the ostrich, emu, rhea and cassowary. It lays the largest egg in relation to body size of any bird in the world – an egg can weigh a quarter of the bird’s body mass. This is like a chicken laying a one pound egg, or a human mother giving birth to a baby the size of a four-year-old…!
The bird is the national symbol of New Zealand – feathers are often gathered by zoo keepers and sent back to New Zealand, where they are highly prized by the country’s indigenous Maori people, who use them in ceremonial clothing.
There are five species, two of which are currently Vulnerable, one of which is Endangered, and one of which is Critically Endangered. All have been hit by deforestation and predation by invasive mammals. The brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) comes from the North Island. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.
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