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Heartfelt send-off for ‘Queen Manukura’

Everlyne Chase [Kaiarahi Maori o Pukaha] and Pukaha kiwi head ranger Jess Flamy embrace in a hongi after sending-off Manukura. PHOTO/JOHN LAZO-RON

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A little white kiwi was given a send-off fit for a queen, as hundreds packed the Pukaha National Wildlife Centre to say their last goodbyes to the rare bird.

Manukura, nicknamed ‘Queen Manukura’ by her carers, was given a touching memorial at the wildlife centre, just south of Eketahuna, on Saturday afternoon.

The memorial began with a powhiri and karakia [prayers] from representatives of Rangitane o Wairarapa and Ngati Manuhiri. It ended with Manukura’s ashes being carried away in a guard of honour through the forest to her final resting place.

Pukaha captive breeding manager and kiwi head ranger Jess Flamy struggled to hold back tears as she talked about her seven years with Manukura.

She said how precious Manukura was to her. “She was amazing,” Flamy said.

“Some people don’t understand why we are doing this and crying so much for Manukura, but she was more than just a kiwi. I knew her really well. She had such a special personality not only because she was white, but because she was just herself.

“She was the one that motivated me in the morning to get up and come and see her. Whenever there was a hard day I would go and watch her for five minutes and she would make me laugh and smile. She was my friend. She was my joy.”

It was Manukura’s ‘boss-like’ personality which led to her nickname, as the fiery bird would roam the Kiwi House at Pukaha like it was her own.

“She knew exactly what she wanted,” Flamy said.

“We called her ‘Queen Manukura’. In her enclosure, she owned the place. She was the boss.”

In her final words for Manukura, Flamy made a promise to her kiwi queen, to stay strong and to take care of her siblings.

“Manukura, there’s not a day that you didn’t put a smile on my face. I will miss watching you bouncing around wherever you wanted to go.

“You had this power that had people from all around the world fall in love with you and that is what happened to me.

“The world will never be the same without you and you will always be in my heart. Thank you for everything you gave me.”

Manukura reached celebrity status from the moment she hatched in 2011, when she became the first white kiwi to be born in captivity. She died late last year after an infertile egg became stuck inside her.

Though surgery successfully removed the egg, Manukura’s health deteriorated in the subsequent weeks.

She was described as an emblem of unity and hope, especially after Pukaha suffered a massive blow when 12 of the 30 kiwis translocated there from Hauturu-o-Toi [Little Barrier Island] were killed by a ferret.

Department of Conservation Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Houkamau said Manukura’s arrival was well-timed for Pukaha.

“We were all understandably devastated by their loss and morale was low,” she said.

“Manukura came to us exactly when we needed her magic.”

Laughingly describing herself as Manukura’s personal assistant, the former Pukaha manager said visitors were star-struck by the kiwi.

“People were utterly spellbound.”

This love was evidenced throughout Manukura’s memorial ceremony.

“It seemed that nobody was immune. I saw many people wiping away tears when they saw her. It was moving to witness.”

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