Saturday, 10 November 2007

close Encounters of the Kiwi kinds

Today, we Encountered some Kiwis. At the "Kiwi Encounter". Yes. It's New Zealand - everything can be made into a tourist attraction if you think about it hard enough.

Anyway, the Kiwi Encounter is a hatching place working to increase the population of kiwis, because they are super-endangered mostly due to being more than one sandwich short of a picnic, evolutionarily speaking. In fact, it's a good thing the Encounterers are so intent on increasing the kiwi population, because it seems the kiwis themselves really couldn't give a gnat's toot about surviving. They can't see, they can't fly, and once their chicks are hatched, the parents just wander off and leave them to die at the hands of stoats, weasels, cats, dogs, the weather, and basically anything smarter than a baby kiwi. Chick survival rate - a whopping 5%. Enter the Kiwi Encounterers, who swipe the eggs, bring them to hatcheries, and keep the chicks safe till they're big enough to outrun a weasel. It's all pc though - they do keep a couple of pairs in captivity for more eggs, but they are careful to teach the chicks to be proper kiwis and forage and dig instead of looking for people with food.

Kiwis are like smaller, cuter, fuzzier ostriches, sort of: the same shape of bird with those big legs and ridiculous tiddly wings. They also share the attribute of laying giganta-eggs, which during gestation make up 25% of the bird's body weight, and when laid, are the equivalent of giving birth to a 35 pound baby. Yowza.

Possibly the funniest, stoopidest thing of all about kiwis, is their noses. Most birds have nostrils immediately by their face on the beak. Kiwis have them right on the tip of the very long beak that they use for digging in the undergrowth. You can hear them snorting and sneezing as they get dirt up their noses.

Kiwis. D'oh.

No comments: