Tuesday 21 November 2017

Rare white kiwi on road to recovery

The six-month-old kiwi is recovering from an operation to remove a stone from her stomach (AP)
The six-month-old kiwi is recovering from an operation to remove a stone from her stomach (AP)

A white kiwi's aggressive behaviour since undergoing an operation has convinced her carers in New Zealand that she is on the mend.

Manukura is among the rarest of birds and she appears to have regained her mojo after a heart scare during surgery on Friday to remove a stone from her gizzard.

"You try to grab her and she kind of karate chops you," said veterinarian Lisa Argilla, at the Wellington Zoo, where Manukura is recuperating. "She growls and she grumbles and she's getting really stroppy. So that's great, that's normal kiwi behaviour, and we love it when our patients do that."

Kiwi are nocturnal birds native to New Zealand and have been decimated by introduced predators. Most kiwi are brown to help hide in the forest undergrowth. White kiwi, which lack a colour gene, have been sighted in the wild, but Manukura is the first born in captivity.

When she was born on May 1, native Maori leaders took it as an omen. Her Maori name means "of chiefly status" and some believe her arrival heralds a new beginning.

"The elders here believe it to be something very, very special," said Jason Kerehi, chief executive of the Rangitane o Wairarapa tribe and a board member at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre where the chick was born. "She is an inspiration to all people."

Although a little underweight, Manukura developed normally enough until about two weeks ago, when rangers at the wildlife centre noticed she was not eating.

She was taken to the zoo where an X-ray revealed she had swallowed two stones. It is not unusual for birds to eat stones to help with digestion, but Manukura only managed to pass one of the stones naturally.

She was taken to the Wellington Hospital, where a urologist was able to zap the stone with a laser to reduce its size and then remove it through her beak, said Ms Argilla - but not before the bird's heart rate dropped precipitously at one point, giving staff a scare.

Manukura will probably be returned to the Mount Bruce wildlife centre next week. Although the centre is designed to rear kiwi chicks and then return them to the wild, Manukura may stay.

Press Association

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