Friday, April 27, 2007

Save the kiwi!

Is a kiwi the green fruit packed with vitamin c that we find in the supermarket? No! What you have in mind is called a kiwifruit.

The kiwi is in fact a small flightless bird, approximately the size of a chicken, only found in New Zealand. The kiwi is pear-shaped and has many mammalian features. For instance: its feathers are like hair, its skin is tough and leathery and it has cat-like claws at the end of its small wings.

Kiwis are monogamous, they can pair for life. The egg is so big that the female is unable to eat during the days preceding the laying: the egg takes 20% of the total weight of the bird. Its name comes from its shrill call: “kee-wee kee-wee”. Kiwis live in forests or swamps and eat worms, insects, spiders and snails. Why is this bird so odd? Its strangeness can be explained by the geographic isolation of the island. About 90% of New Zealand’s flora and fauna is unique.

It is assessed that this nocturnal bird has lived in New Zealand for 70 million years, but it is now endangered since mammalian predators have been introduced.

This bird only found in New Zealand has become the national symbol of the country. Kiwis are so linked to this nation that the New Zealanders are even called Kiwis. The name kiwi in reference to New Zealanders came into general use during WW1.
Despite the rarity of the bird, the symbol is omnipresent: on coins and stamps, on flags and on all kinds of products. The kiwi as a symbol first appeared on military badges in about 1886. Even the New Zealand dollar is often called "The Kiwi". The kiwi as an emblem can be found on the coat of arms and badges of many New Zealand clubs, organisations and cities.

The identity of the New Zealanders will, thanks to the Kiwi Recovery Programme launched in 1991, forever be linked with this strange bird.

Save the kiwi!

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