Pūkaha Mourns Loss Of Precious White Kiwi
Mount Bruce, Masterton: Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre sadly announces the loss of its most famous resident, Manukura. The white kiwi was the first ever pure white kiwi hatched into captivity anywhere in the world. She went on to become a beloved friend and taonga (treasure) to hundreds of thousands of guests from Aotearoa and across the world, that visited the wildlife centre throughout the course of her nine and a half year lifetime. Her popularity with the public spawned a Facebook page, soft toys, children’s books and other memorabilia in her likeness.
Hatched on 1st of May 2011, the North Island Brown Kiwi should have been coloured brown but was instead born with white feathers due to an extremely rare genetic trait carried by both parents. Pūkaha staff at the time had no idea of her colouring until she hatched. Her arrival was hailed as a huge blessing by Māori and local iwi Rangitāne o Wairarapa who saw her as a unifying symbol and a signal to help guide their future relationship with Pūkaha. They consider her a taonga (treasure) and tribal elders bestowed her with the Māori name; Manukura, meaning “of chiefly status”.
Manukura was the first of three white kiwi that went on to be hatched at Pūkaha over the course of the 2011-2012 breeding seasons. Whilst white kiwi can exist in the wild, they are considered so rare that for most people, seeing one in its natural habitat is highly unlikely. She is survived by her younger brother Mapuna, who is currently part of Pūkaha’s captive breeding programme.
Emily Court, Pūkaha’s General Manager said that rangers caring for Manukura noticed she was not eating and losing weight in early December 2020. This resulted in her being swiftly taken to Wildbase Hospital, a specialist wild animal veterinary practice at Massey University in Palmerston North. Wildbase vets operated to remove an infertile egg that had become stuck and unable to be passed naturally. More surgery was then required to remove her oviduct and most of her left ovary. The surgeries went well but were not enough to save the ailing kiwi whose health continued to deteriorate in the weeks following the operation. Manukura passed away peacefully at 12.50pm on 27 December 2020 with rangers and veterinary staff present.
Ms Court said it was one of the saddest days the wildlife centre had ever experienced. “Manukura is very much a part of the Pūkaha family and we have always felt so blessed to have Manukura to help us to tell the Aotearoa’s conservation story”
The incredible team at Wildbase did everything in their power to save her but it was her time to go. We are so grateful for the love and care that the Wildbase team have shown Manukura over the years. With her regular health scares they have certainly come to know her and her quirky personality just as much as our rangers. They are as devastated as we are.” she said.
DOC Wairarapa Operations Manager, Kathy Houkamau who was the Centre Manager at Pūkaha when Manukura hatched and now sits on the Pūkaha board remembers Manukura fondly. “She was a fantastic ambassador for Pūkaha, kiwi, conservation and tourism in Wairarapa and we are all very sad that she has passed. Over the past 10 years she delighted multitudes of people and in her own quiet way shone a spotlight on the precarious plight of kiwi in the wild. She will be sorely missed”.
Rangitāne Kaumatua Mike Kawana was there to do karakia over her and gave her the name Manukura when she was born, so it was appropriate and truly special that his brother Rangitane Kaumatua Manu Kawana was there to offer karakia and words of comfort at her passing.
“Taiahaha! ka rere te kohu ki runga I a Pūkaha maunga taiahaha! Kei te taonga Manukura hoki wairua atu ki Hauturu ki roto I ngā pūrakau. o Ngāti Manuhiri, E tangi ana a Rangitāne, moe mai rā e te taonga manu moe mai rā.
“Rangitane are saddened at the news of Manukura’s passing, Rangitāne have always believed she was a precious taonga and were priveleged to have played a small role in her life, she has had a profound effect on so many peoples lives over the years that we are sure everyone joins us in our grief.” Said Mike on learning of her passing today.
Manukura leaves behind a legacy based on love, kindness and friendship. When the famous New Zealand children’s author Joy Cowley wrote her book Manukura, The White Kiwi based on a visit she had with Manukura, she summed up the feelings of many who identified with Manukura saying “I enjoyed making the connection between Manukura’s ‘specialness’ and every child’s uniqueness”.
Ms Court acknowledged that community and whānau from Aotearoa and across the world will want to say their goodbyes to Manukura and that the wildlife centre was working through what to do. “For now we will all grieve but in the coming days our minds will turn to how we honour Manukura, and what those options may be. Keep in touch with us through our Social Media channels and we’ll provide updates once they come to hand and we have consulted with iwi and our wider Pūkaha community about the best ways for people to pay their respects”.