Wellington Zoo has closed its kiwi house indefinitely. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wellington Zoo has closed its kiwi house indefinitely as it investigates what killed three of the birds in its care in recent months.
Tahi, a one-legged kiwi who had frequented the zoo for 15 years, died a fortnight ago after suffering symptoms similar to those of two other birds who died earlier.
Zoo CEO Karen Fifield said they are still trying to figure out what was wrong.
“Tahi, as you probably know, has been at the zoo for over 15 years and over the last couple of months he started to feel terrible, didn’t eat his food and sort of went downhill, so he had been having vet care during that time and it just broke down, ”she said.
“There was a lot of work the vets did in terms of tests and x-rays and a whole host of things trying to figure out what was wrong.
“The only thing they could find was that he had ulcers in his intestinal tract. It could be related to worms, but it’s not yet clearly evident, so there is still a lot of pathology work to be undertaken and many more investigations to be done with specialist pathologists and other avian specialists as well as kiwi experts. “
The other two dead kiwis had similar symptoms, including ulcers, but a link has not been definitively proven and the zoo is awaiting more pathological results. But the zoo authorities are being cautious in closing the kiwi enclosure.
No plan is in place to replace the birds either.
“At the moment we are not going to have any kiwis. Our kiwis come from the breeding program in New Zealand, and so these kiwis were bred specifically for zoos that have kiwis,” she said. .
“We want to do a lot more investigating these three kiwis before we bring any new kiwifruit into the house. So we will be closing our kiwi house until we are absolutely sure we have discovered as much as possible.”
The zoo doesn’t believe the enclosure environment is the source of any disease, but it plans to renovate the area before reopening.
“Again, like I said, we always have to look at every possibility. We have to, you know, look under every stone to try to find out what it is.”
The kiwifruit program at the zoo was an important part of awareness and conservation, ensuring the endangered birds keep high visibility with the public, Fifield said.
“Our birds are an integral part of a kiwifruit conservation program and being part of the Capital Zoo, they are very important for our visitors to see them as many New Zealanders have never seen a kiwi.
“So this is a very important program and we are working with a whole range of partners across the country, but I think some of the work that we can discover through our conservation medicine work with these three kiwis could be adds to the body of knowledge around the preservation of wild kiwifruit and also kiwifruit in human care.
“So I think the more we can investigate and the more we can really examine these deaths in depth, maybe we can end up adding more to the body of knowledge. That is my hope.”
Two of the birds were to be released after spending four years in the nocturnal house.
“They stay in the nighthouses for four years, and then they are released. So yes, we were preparing to release these other two, but then they started to get sick. Tahi was a different character because he only had one thing. ‘one leg and he was never going to be released, which is why he had been with us for so long. He was quite unique in that regard.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-11 08:54:32