New Zealand Embassy and Smithsonian National Zoo host handover ceremony to return kiwi feathers to New Zealand

From left: Rt Hon Mike Moore, Ataahua Papa, Kathy Brader and Mr Dennis Kelly.


Rt Hon Mike Moore, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, and Mr Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian National Zoo, hosted the official handover of kiwi feathers to New Zealand in a ceremony on Monday 24 September at the New Zealand Embassy.

Kiwi birds (known as ‘kiwis’) are native to New Zealand, but several kiwis are being raised and bred in zoos around the world. Feathers from kiwis, collected from zoos around the world, are used by Maori to make special cloaks called “korowai”. These cloaks are prized possessions and are often used in Maori cultural ceremonies.

Ataahua Papa, a New York-based Maori cultural expert, performed the handover ceremony – which set the scene for the repatriation of the feathers to New Zealand. Kathy Brader, a senior bird keeper at the Smithsonian National Zoo who works with the kiwi birds, also attended the event.

In 1975, the Smithsonian National Zoo was the first to hatch a kiwi chick outside of New Zealand.  Since then, New Zealand and the United States have worked to keep up this special relationship between its zoos. Earlier in the year, Ambassador Mike Moore named the Smithsonian National Zoo’s latest kiwi “Omana” (in honour of his hometown in New Zealand). Omana and several other kiwis can be seen at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Bird House exhibit in Washington, D.C.

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