Conservation specialist slams viral kiwi video at Miami zoo as DoC raises concerns

Conservation specialists are warning a kiwi held in a Miami zoo could have just six months to live.

Video footage of Paora the kiwi being manhandled as part of the zoo's interactive kiwi experience has sparked calls for him to be returned home. 

One of Aotearoa's most beloved treasures was filmed being treated like a pet to play with. Paora the kiwi was hatched at Zoo Miami in 2019. For NZ$40 visitors can see him and pose for a selfie, but the footage posted online has sparked outrage.

It appears to show keepers pushing Paora's head to the tabletop, scratching his whiskers and using his need for darkness as a gimmick.

Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre manager Robert Webb "wouldn't mind betting in six months he'll be dead".

Webb has dedicated his life to rehabilitating injured animals like one-legged kiwi - Sparky. He said the stress Paroa is under could be deadly.

"They're vulnerable at that age, who knows what it could pick up that we don't know about. When you've got a young kiwi like that you've got to handle them with gloves, don't overhandle them - the stress will come up."

And he's not the only kiwi expert who's worried. Endangered Species Foundation's general manager Natalie Jessup is too.

"The footage was quite shocking," Jessup said.

"We used to have 12 million kiwi in New Zealand and that number's down to 70,000, and it's reducing still - by 2 percent every year. To see this really precious bird, I mean we call ourselves [Kiwi], to be treated in this way - I think people are just totally outraged."

Hundreds of people have already signed a petition to "help save the kiwi", and it's amassed 2148 signatures so far.

Paora is one of about 60 kiwi outside Aotearoa, which the Department of Conservation (DoC) said are managed separately to kiwi here. It's now promising to "raise concerns with the Miami zoo to try to improve the situation".

Webb wants DoC to do more than that.

"Think long and do something positive - and get the bird back to Aotearoa."

Newshub sought comment from Zoo Miami.