KIWI

A rare kiwi chick, native to New Zealand, recently hatched at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal. The chick is being hand-raised by staff after its parents died in March.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal recently welcomed a brown kiwi chick, which hatched on April 28 after its parents died in late March.

The chick’s mother, Ngati Hine Rua, and father, Ngati Hine Tahi, were a gift from New Zealand and arrived at the institute in July 2010, according to a May 11 news release posted at the institute's website.

“At the time, they were the first export of kiwi in more than 20 years,” the release states.  “Adding them to the genetic pool in North America was a rare and valuable opportunity to breed and study this vulnerable species.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the brown kiwi as vulnerable following habitat loss and the introduction of invasive predators like stoats and domestic dogs and cats.

After the two kiwis arrived in 2010, “SCBI held a ceremony with a traditional Maori blessing with former New Zealand Ambassador Roy Ferguson and Consul General John Mataira,” according to a March news release. “Both birds came from the Ngati Hine people in New Zealand, and their bodies [were] repatriated to the tribe for burial.”

Ngati Hine Rua laid her egg Feb. 17 before she and Ngati Hine Tahi died in March. Both were 15 years old, and the SCBI reported at the time that the birds had appeared healthy.

Preliminary findings suggested an intestinal infection and bacterial-toxin production caused the deaths, though the institute expected a final pathology report to provide more information in the coming weeks.

Their habitat, Kiwi Flats, was quarantined, the March release states, and remaining kiwis were moved to other animal holding areas to avoid spreading any infectious agents. The institute  has not announced any updates on its site of results from the final pathology report.

Ngati Hine Rua and Ngati Hine Tahi had eight offspring — six males, one female and the new chick, whose sex is still unknown, the release states. Two of the chick’s siblings live at the institute; the others have received recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan to breed at other institutions.

The chick is eating, moving and vocalizing while being hand-raised by animal keepers, the release states. Kiwis do not imprint on humans, the release said.

For more information, visit nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation/news.