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US kiwi expert awarded NZ’s highest accolade

US kiwi expert awarded NZ’s highest accolade

20 March 2014

US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Marie Damour congratulates Smithsonian National Zoo senior bird keeper Kathleen Brader for today becoming an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Ms Brader received the honour for her kiwi-conservation efforts at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC. During her 25 years at the zoo she has successfully hatched and raised six kiwi, created a kiwi education campaign, chaired the Species Survival Program and written numerous publications on protecting the endangered bird.

Ms Damour said Brader’s award placed her among a rare group of non-New Zealanders distinguished by the honour.

“Her devotion and commitment exemplify the partnership between the United States and New Zealand on conservation and cultural recovery,” she said.

Recently, Ms Brader oversaw a project which collected kiwi feathers to be repatriated to New Zealand.

The feathers were ceremonially gifted to New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Mike Moore in September 2012 before being returned to New Zealand and presented to Auckland Zoo and Ngati Whatua. The feathers were eventually used in the weaving of traditional Maori cloaks.

The Smithsonian now collects feathers from zoos in the US and Europe and sends them to Maori elders in New Zealand each year.

“Kiwi feathers have a great cultural significance to Maori and Kathleen has done an outstanding job of both collecting them and providing them to New Zealand,” Ms Damour said.

Ms Brader said she was “completely blown away” by the honour.

“I still have a hard time believing that I have been picked for this tremendous accolade.

“Though I am an American by birth I am a kiwi by heart, and I hope this honour will help me in promoting kiwi overseas," she said.

Ms Brader was appointed to the New Zealand Order of Merit by Prime Minister John Key in December 2012 and received her award in a ceremony at Government House earlier this afternoon.

While in New Zealand, Ms Brader will visit Wellington Zoo and wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.

Further Information:

In 1975, the Smithsonian National Zoo was the first institution to hatch a kiwi chick outside New Zealand and currently has seven kiwis in its collection. Today, the Smithsonian is one of only five zoos outside New Zealand to have hatched kiwi chicks.

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