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Three Wee Kiwi At The Columbus Zoo, A First In North America

Media Alert: Friday, August 12, 2011


August 12, 2011

Jennifer Wilson                                        
Communications Manager

NOTE TO MEDIA:  Photographs of the three chicks together are available. The first chick can be seen at the Zoo between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Powell, OH – A third kiwi hatched on the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Jul. 17, 2011 marking the first time an institution in North America has successfully hatched three kiwi in one year. The Columbus Zoo’s first hatching of the North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) occurred less than four months ago on Mar. 23, 2011 and the second hatched on Jun. 25, 2011.
“The Columbus Zoo’s animal care programs have many Centers of Excellence representing diverse species from around the world” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “Due to the hard work and dedication of our expert staff, we are proud to add kiwi to that list.”
Only seven kiwis, including the three chicks at the Columbus Zoo, have hatched in the past five years in North America. The Columbus Zoo is only the third zoo in North America to successfully hatch a kiwi chick since the first one hatched at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in 1975.
The newest chick, a female, is currently being cared for behind-the-scenes. The first two chicks are both males and have been given names reflecting their native New Zealand; “Ariki” (ah-ree-kee), meaning first-born or chief and “Toa” (to-ah) meaning warrior. The oldest of the chicks, Ariki, can be seen in the Zoo’s Roadhouse nocturnal habitat for a few hours each day beginning at 11 a.m.
Including the chicks there are now six kiwis at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a total of 22 kiwis in three United States zoos.
Kiwis are flightless birds about the size of a domestic chicken and the egg, weighing as much as 20% of the female’s body weight, is the largest egg in relation to body size of any bird. The female kiwi lays one egg at a time in the burrow occupied by the male kiwi. In the wild the male completes the average 86-day incubation process on his own.
At the Zoo eggs are checked to see if they are fertile 30-45 days after they are laid. To maximize the potential of a successful hatching a fertile egg is placed in an incubator where it is monitored for temperature and humidity and turned slightly each day. Once the chick pips the egg it takes about four days for it to completely emerge and it survives on its yolk sac for 6-12 days.
Kiwi chicks are miniature versions of the adult kiwi and are about 1/8 of the size of an adult when they hatch. They are precocial, meaning they are completely on their own after hatching, and must find food and avoid predators without assistance. Most birds locate their food through sight and have a relatively poor sense of smell. Being nocturnal, the kiwi’s senses are just the opposite and they use their long beak to forage through leaf litter sniffing out earthworms and other invertebrates, fruits and berries.
Kiwis have a high mortality rate in the wild mostly due to predation by invasive species; 50% of kiwi eggs fail to hatch, 90% of chicks do not survive to six months of age and only 5% reach adulthood. Kiwi males are sexually mature at two years of age and females are reproductive at about three years old.
The five distinct species of kiwi are only found in New Zealand and zoos outside of New Zealand only manage the North Island brown kiwi. The kiwi is the unofficial mascot of New Zealand and despite having legal protection since 1896 their numbers are declining mostly due to predation by non-native species including dogs and cats.
The Columbus Zoo’s conservation program has supported projects to protect the kiwi including supplying funds to construct predator proof fencing around reserves and fitting kiwis with transmitters to enable regular monitoring.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days a year 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day.  General admission is $14.00 for adults, $9.00 for children ages 2 to 9 and $10.00 for seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit