[ KIWIANA DISPLAY BOX ]
Unique to New Zealand
Kiwis are flightless birds roughly the same size as chickens, but you won’t find a Kentucky Fried Kiwi. Killing kiwis is naughty and illegal. The kiwi is protected and endangered. It is also New Zealand’s national bird, beating several other talented birds to the title. Ah, the kiwi – the shy, nocturnal, plump, succulent, marinated… remember, no matter how tasty the bird looks, it’s off-limits.
It’s estimated the kiwi has been around for 30 million years – the past 200 years being the most torrid. The kiwi population is threatened by introduced animal predators and the clearance of native forest. Kiwis can be hard to find as they only come out at night, sleep approximately 20 hours out of 24 and are generally hiding in isolated forest areas. To get close to our famous kiwi can be very difficult unless you buy a ticket to visit our very own “Kiwi House” where you can see them very close up. Named after its shrill cry (“kee-wee”) the kiwi lives underground, much like the elusive womble of Wimbledon Common.
As New Zealand’s national emblem, the kiwi is found on money, stamps, coins, shoe polish, coats of arms, rugby league jerseys, but it isn’t on the national flag and it doesn’t get a mention in the national anthem.
The kiwi is as blind as a bat, it eats bugs and worms, refuses to bathe and never drinks a drop of water its entire life. Kiwis live in pairs and mate for life, which is up to 30 years. The female is bigger and dominant. It lays massive eggs that would make its distant relations the ostrich and emu proud. The Kiwi and ‘New Zealandness’ are inseparable.
“Kiwis” – It started in the trenches
New Zealanders have been ‘Kiwis’ since the First World War when Australian soldiers coined the nickname. The name has stuck, especially when travelling overseas and in our sporting endeavours. Although New Zealand is often portrayed as a sports-obsessed nation, in truth only 95% of the population cares about sport.
There are other things which are common to all such as:
- Never being more than three hours’ drive from the sea.
- Not being penalised for missing your ball in a game of pool.
Kiwis are famous for ingenuity, hard work and a reluctance to complain, show emotion or offer lavish praise. If a Kiwi won the Nobel Prize, fellow Kiwis would describe the triumph as “quite good.” A hug would be considered excessive.
And while the Kiwi bird has been on the decline, Kiwi people are thriving. New Zealand has the fastest growing population of any developed nation, according to a United Nations Study. In the year 2000, there were 3.8 million Kiwis. By 2025 there will be 4.9 million.
A few Kiwis you may have heard of:
- Edmund Hillary – Mountaineer. Famous for conquering Mount Everest with Nepalese Sherpa, Tensing Norgay, despite it being very high indeed
- Ernest Rutherford – Physicist. Famous for splitting the atom and pioneering nuclear science, only for his homeland to become nuclear free
- Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – Opera singer. Famous for wearing a dress louder than her angelic voice at Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s royal wedding
- Sam Neill – Actor. Famous for being chased by dinosaurs in Jurassic Park
- Jonah Lomu – rugby player. Famous for running over mainly Englishmen
- Tim & Neil Finn – Musicians. Famous for the bands Split Enz and Crowded House (and growing up 30km north of here)
- Katherine Mansfield – Novelist. Famous for writing books in France…
…just to name a few.