MIAMI – The first kiwi bird ever hatched in the state of Florida was officially named during a ceremony at Zoo Miami Monday afternoon.
New Zealand Ambassador Rosemary Banks, along with Maori leaders Chis McKenzie and Paora Haitana, joined Florida Lt.Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Miami Zoo officials to give the New Zealand native bird its name - Paora.
The female flightless bird was named in honor of Haitana, an indigenous Maori leader who has dedicated his life to wildlife conservation in New Zealand.
A distant relative to the ostrich, the animals are considered a national treasure by the country and its indigenous Maori people. Thus, they remain the country's property even in captivity internationally.
Paora hatched in early April under the care of Zoo Miami zoologists. The egg was loaned to Zoo Miami by the Smithsonian National Zoological Park as part of a special arrangement with the New Zealand government in late January.
Kiwid can live up to 50 years and adult females lay one egg at a time, and the incubation period is about three times as long as most other birds, Zoo Miami officials said.
The ceremony also raises international awareness for New Zealand's ambitious "Predator Free 2050" campaign.
Introduced predators like rats, possums and stoats are the largest threat facing New Zealand's native wildlife, including kiwis, with an estimated 25 million native birds falling victim to non-native predators in 2015, New Zealand then-Prime Minister John Key said.
Key launched the "Predator Free 2050" campaign as a response to the growing issue.
"This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe that if we can all work together as a country, we can achieve it," Jonathan Steffert, public affairs officer at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, said.
New Zealand routinely cracks the top 20 in the Environmental Performance Index, which ranks countries in numerical order based on policies aimed at ecosystem vitality and environmental health.