Overseas kiwi off the cuteness scale

Last updated 11:12 04/01/2013
US Kiwi
NEW ARRIVAL: Too cute for words.

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A kiwi has gone off the cuteness scale at a major zoo in the United States. 

The Smithsonian National Zoo, in Washington DC, tweeted this week about the flightless bird, saying "if cuteness was measured in grams, this kiwi would exceed the scale's weight limit!"

The kiwi in the picture was hatched at the zoo in 2010.

The zoo, which has over two million visitors a year, has a 'Meet a Kiwi' programme which runs three times a week.

Few kiwi hatch outside of New Zealand, but the National Zoo managed to hatch its first in 1975. A second chick was hatched at the zoo in 2006.

Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the zoo - which is also a research and education centre for endangered species - strives to maintain the kiwi population.

It set up an onsite breeding facility and teamed up with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to establish the Kiwi Science Center. It is designed for six pairs of kiwi, with specially crafted pens and habitats.

National Zoo head kiwi-keeper Kathy Brader has a blog dedicated to the birds' development.

Brader works closely with the New Zealand Embassy and the Department of Conservation, and the zoo returns the feathers of dead kiwi for traditional Maori cloaks.

"This is a way of immortalizing our birds," she said.

"It offers a means of involving them directly in conservation and cultural recovery efforts, and it takes very little work on everyone's part. It's a classic win-win situation."

The zoo is one of only five outside New Zealand that has successfully bred kiwi, and over the centre's 121-year history, it has only hatched four. Frankfurt and Berlin's zoos also breed kiwi.

» Photos of the US kiwi here.

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