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Our chiefly kiwi dies

A photo of Manukura at age 8. PHOTO/FILE

Manukura left legacy based on love

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The first white kiwi born in captivity in 2011 and raised at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre died on Sunday aged nine and a half.

Named by Rangitane o Wairarapa tribal elders Manukura, which means “of chiefly status”, she had a special place in New Zealand history and hearts.

Manukura died at 12.50pm on December 27 with rangers and veterinary staff present.

Rangitane o Wairarapa representative Manu Kawana was at the Palmerston North Wildbase Hospital to pray and speak at her passing.

Pukaha general manager Emily Court said Sunday was one of the saddest days the wildlife centre had ever experienced.

“Manukura was very much a part of the Pukaha family, and we have always felt so blessed to have her to help us to tell Aotearoa’s conservation story,” Court said.

In early December, rangers caring for Manukura noticed she was not eating and was losing weight.

The bird was taken to the specialist wild animal veterinary practice Wildbase at Massey University, Palmerston North.

Vets operated there to remove a stuck, infertile egg.

More surgery was done 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 deteriorated.

“We are so grateful for the love and care that the Wildbase team have shown Manukura over the years,” Court said.

“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.”

Manukura was the first pure white kiwi hatched into captivity anywhere in the world. she became a taonga [treasure] to hundreds of thousands of visitors from New Zealand and around the world.

Her popularity spawned a Facebook page, white kiwi soft toys, children’s books about her, and other memorabilia.

Rangitane cultural adviser Mike Kawana prayed over her when she hatched and named her, and he has spoken in te reo about her now.

“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,” Kawana said.

In English: “Rangitane are saddened at the news of Manukura’s passing, Rangitane have always believed she was a precious taonga and were privileged to have played a small role in her life, she has had a profound effect on so many people’s lives over the years that we are sure everyone joins us in our grief.”

Court said Manukura left behind a legacy based on love, kindness, and friendship.

When Featherston-based New Zealand children’s author Joy Cowley wrote her book Manukura, she summed up her feeling about her visit to Pukaha and seeing the white kiwi.

“I enjoyed making the connection between Manukura’s ‘specialness’ and every child’s uniqueness,” Cowley said.

Court is now working with the Pukaha community to sort out how people can pay their respects and how the rare bird would be honoured.

The kiwi’s white feathers are often misattributed to albinism. They are due to the partial loss of skin pigmentation, called leucism.

The Pukaha white kiwi are North Island Brown Kiwi which came from Little Barrier Island. Both Manukura’s parents carried the extremely rare genetic trait causing leucism.

Manukura was the first of three white kiwi hatched at Pukaha during the 2011-2012 breeding seasons.

She is survived by her younger brother Mapuna, also a white kiwi.

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