Rare kiwi is all white for now
Published 26/05/2011 | 07:58
A rare white kiwi chick hatched at a New Zealand reserve will have a protected early life - unlike his wild cousins which are being slowly wiped out by predators.
Department of Conservation area manager Chris Lester said the chick was born at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre on May 1, weighing about 8.8oz. It was named Manukura or "Chiefly One" by local Maori.
The tiny flightless bird is not an albino but the rare offspring of North Island brown kiwi from Little Barrier Island that were moved to the reserve last year.
Mr Lester said Manukura was being hand-reared in the reserve's new kiwi nursery, and would remain closely protected for at least the first year of his life.
Mr Lester said white kiwis were spotted in the wild about every three or four years, but the last one in captivity was released in 1915.
Once the bird is able to fend for itself, he said one alternative would be that it "remains in a predator-proof environment at the reserve ... or we will release him to take his chances".
Native to New Zealand, kiwis face potential extinction from a range of introduced predators that are also killing many other native bird species.
Rangitane o Wairarapa Maori tribal chief executive Jason Kerehi said the tribe's elders saw the white chick as a "tohu", or sign of new beginnings, and a "taonga", or treasure.
"Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is," he said.
"While we're celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched (at the reserve) this year, Manukura is a very special gift."