Save The Kiwi

Save The Kiwi

For those unaware there was another “kiwi” long before the little hairy fruit – known to New Zealanders as a kiwifruit – hit the supermarket shelves, here is a photo of our national bird, the kiwi.

In New Zealand this week has been deemed “save the kiwi” week, drawing everyone’s awareness to the problem of protecting our national icon from extinction.

Kiwis are nocturnal birds and live in burrows in the ground in the bush. Their diet consists of insects, worms and fruit. They mate for life and the male incubates the egg which is huge in comparison with the size of the bird, approx 20% of the female’s weight. A kiwi is unique in the bird world because it has external nostrils at the end of its beak giving them a great sense of smell.

Due to the introduction of rats, weasels, stouts etc who prey on the eggs and chicks of the kiwi, their numbers in the wild have been rapidly declining. Flightless kiwis are virtually defenceless against these predators. Although kiwis have a similar life span to humans, up to 85% of young kiwis don’t survive past 6 months in the wild. All five species of kiwi are on the endangered list. But gradually breeding programmes conducted around the country by the Department of Conservation and private kiwi sanctuaries are increasing the numbers of our beautiful but shy icon. Birds breed in captivity are being released into the wild when they reach adulthood.

It’s doubtful we as individuals we can do much to help, especially if we live in cities. But we can donate to such an important cause and draw awareness of others to the birds’ plight.

Why should I be any more worried about the kiwi than any other endangered species around the world today?

The kiwi is a symbol representing New Zealand in so many ways. Military regimental badges from the late 19th century were probably the first use of the kiwi as a representation of New Zealand. In 1906 the introduction of Kiwi Shoe Polish into the UK and the US – with a kiwi proudly displayed on each can – meant the symbol became more widely known. During the First World War, the name “kiwi” for New Zealand soldiers came into general use. It is now common for all New Zealanders overseas and at home to be referred to as “kiwis”.

The kiwi is prominent in the coat of arms, crests and badges of many New Zealand cities, clubs and organisations. The New Zealand dollar is often referred to as “the kiwi dollar”. The kiwi is so much more than a bird, it is a symbol of who and what we are as a nation.

Please don’t confuse that little hairy fruit with what a real kiwi is.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little about our kiwis. Soon I’ll post the Maori legend about why the kiwi’s colour became so nondescript

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