Paora the kiwi: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanks Zoo Miami for taking backlash seriously

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has spoken out on Paora the kiwi after New Zealanders expressed disgust and anger towards the wee bird's treatment in an United States zoo.

Zoo Miami, the home to Paora, apologised on Wednesday morning following strong backlash over its kiwi encounter programme, which has been spotlighted recently on social media.

Video showed the nocturnal bird being recorded in broad daylight appearing to have its head pushed to the tabletop, its whiskers scratched and his need for darkness used as a gimmick.

"I am absolutely appalled at the way the Kiwi is being handled. No birds should be handled like that, for many reasons. They are not toys. Bring him home," one person wrote.

"Making money off the backs of this iconic bird is going against anything a modern zoo should be doing! Disgusted really [Zoo Miami] should be boycotted," wrote another.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) also responded. 

"We would like to thank everyone who has raised concerns about Paora, the kiwi at Miami Zoo. While offshore kiwi are managed separately, we'll be discussing the situation with the American Association of Zoos & Aquariums to address some of the housing and handling concerns raised," it said on Tuesday.

The zoo announced on Wednesday morning it had listened to the feedback and would stop the kiwi encounter experience immediately.

Hipkins was asked about the kiwi during a standup with media on Wednesday afternoon.

"My understanding is that it was first raised with DOC in New Zealand early yesterday morning. They raised that immediately with the zoo concerned. I think the zoo has immediately taken steps to address the concerns that were raised," he said.

"They have acknowledged that what they were doing wasn't appropriate, or wasn't right, or wasn't fair to the kiwi and that they are doing something about that. I think that's all we can ask of them."

Hipkins said when DOC is aware of kiwis overseas, it will work with the local zoos to provide guidance on how the animals can be properly cared for.

"That's what they did yesterday. I think the zoo has taken that on board pretty quickly. They have already made public statements of regret for what has happened. I acknowledge that and I thank them for taking it seriously."

He said the speed with which Kiwis reported the situation to DOC and then with which DOC responded showed how strongly New Zealanders feel.

"I think that shows Kiwis take a lot of pride in our national bird when they are overseas and they do take action if they see kiwis being mistreated and as a result, I think we were able to get a speedy outcome here."

Zoo Miami said the concerns raised "have been taken very seriously". It apologised for "the stress initiated by a video on social media depicting the handling and housing of 'Paora'".

"Though Paora has thrived at Zoo Miami while receiving the best care available, the development of the Kiwi Encounter was, in hindsight, not well conceived with regard to the national symbolism of this iconic animal and what it represents to the people of New Zealand, especially the Māori.

"It is especially painful to all of us to think that anything that has occurred with Paora here at Zoo Miami would be offensive to any of the wonderful people of New Zealand. Again, we are deeply sorry."

Zoo Miami said Paora is normally kept out of public view in a quiet area with a special shelter that enables him to be in relative darkness during the day. It said plans are underway to build a special habitat for him that will continue to provide him with shelter while respecting and supporting his natural instincts, which will allow guests to be taught about kiwi without any direct contact from the public.