This chick's a survivor

Rare white kiwi returns to home

MATT STEWART
Last updated 15:54 10/11/2011
Manukura Kiwi
Mike Heydon

Homeward: Manukura, a rare white kiwi, is on its way home after recuperating at Wellington Zoo. It is pictured here at Pukaha nocturnal house at Mt Bruce.

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Manukura, the celebrity white kiwi chick, is being hailed ''an advocate for the recovery of her endangered species'' after her triumphant Wairarapa homecoming  today, fully-recovered after swallowing two large stones and spending three weeks in the care of Wellington Zoo vets. 

The second and largest stone was successfully removed by a urologist in a cutting-edge laser procedure usually used to break up kidney stones in humans. She was returned to Pukaha Mt Bruce National Wildlife centre this afternoon.

When transferred from her travelling box into the nocturnal house enclosure, she quietly got her bearings before being placed into her brooder box by Department of Conservation captive breeding ranger Darren Page.

Her homecoming has been used as transition point for the decision to keep her in captivity.

"The timing is right to try Manukura out in the kiwi house," Pukaha Mount Bruce manager Kathy Houkamau said.  "Her return home coincides with her almost reaching 1,200 grams - the weight at which juvenile kiwi are usually released into the wild. She has already been out of her familiar surroundings for a few weeks, we will have control over her environment and climate and we can observe her."

"We are hopeful that her relatively laid back nature will help her to settle in quickly. However it can take up to six months for a kiwi to settle into a nocturnal house so we will be monitoring her closely."

The nocturnal house creates a night time environment during the day so kiwi can be seen by visitors in an enclosure that simulates their natural habitat.  "White feathers will really stand out in her darkened enclosure which will make her very easy to see," Ms Houkamau said.

The decision to put her back in captivity hinges on the six-month-old's welfare and behaviour but has been influenced by strong public feedback and her potential vulnerability in the wild.

"Manukura continues to capture the hearts of people from around the world," Rangitane o Wairarapa chief executive and Pukaha Mount Bruce board member Jason Kerehi said. 

Her stay in Wellington Zoo was followed closely by scores of Facebook fans and well-wishers with 'Manukura' regularly posting updates.

"Her recent health scare emphasised the interest the public has for her care and wellbeing...Manukura is widely seen as a special gift that should be fully protected, as long as she is content," Mr Kerehi said.

"She has already become an advocate for the recovery of her endangered species and we hope that this will continue through her being easily visible to the public."

Manukura's change from day to night will be made gradually over 24 days with the lighting adjusted by an hour every other day to avoid the 'jet lag' effect of experiencing two consecutive daytimes.  This means the lights in her enclosure will be on until late November during the day and she will be asleep.  

Manukura - whose name means "of chiefly status'' in Maori - will initially live alone, and once she has settled in a second kiwi may be introduced into her enclosure.  A second nocturnal enclosure houses two other kiwi, Vincent and Tahi.

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She is thought to be the only white kiwi in captivity although white kiwis have been reportedly spotted on Little Barrier Island where manukura's parents come from.

- The Dominion Post

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