Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Real Thing

Kiwi Fruit, formerly known as Chinese Gooseberry. How they derived the former from the latter I have no idea! Thankfully however the Kiwi's of the human variety gained their nickname from the native ground bird found here and certainly not from the above mentioned oddly named exotic fruit. Nontheless while this may be so, no locals I have spoken to have ever seen one of the said species in the wild. I understandably found this quite strange given that all New Zealander's answer proudly to the alias though none have spotted or touched the flightless creature from whom they have purloined the name. My curiosity was therefore easily ignited concerning the only authentic and ever more mysterious "Kiwi" that is neither fruit nor person. What is it? Where is it?

The Kiwi is a nocturnal animal and being such means that it possesses incredible senses of smell, touch and hearing which along with hair like feathers have earned it the recognition of "honourary mammal". However what surely makes the creature most unique are the nostrils at the end of its beak, something which I had never before heard of in a bird. Futhermore indigenous to a nation where there are no "native mammals", all having been introduced firstly by the Maori and then by Captain Cook, the Kiwi is now in real danger of extinction. Never truly under threat in it's once upon a time unaltered habitat, the Kiwi has lost it's gift of flight which remained uneccessary until the apocalyptic arrival of mammals, in particular stoats, dogs, ferrets, cats and possums.

Also making the situation all the more difficult is the fact that the Kiwi, which mates for life, produces only one egg per season. Of these, 90% die in the first 6 months with 70% killed by stoats and cats. Indeed this is not helped either by parents who having shared the task of incubation, sadly not feeding the new born chick which must after as little as a week go out to forage for itself, a time when it is at it's most vulnerable.

So let's hope that in twenty years time the kiwi bird will have been protected enough by it's fellow nostriled namesake and if all goes well they will perhaps see a lot more of each other.

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