• The incident involved Pāora, a kiwi hatched at Zoo Miami
  • The zoo issued an apology following the backlash
  • New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins also reacted to the kiwi controversy

A zoo in Miami has issued an apology after the treatment of a kiwi bird angered thousands of New Zealanders. Several videos, which went viral on social media, prompted a furious campaign demanding the return of New Zealand's national bird.

The incident involved Pāora, a kiwi hatched at Zoo Miami. The zoo carried out a wildlife encounter program where guests were allowed to pet the creature after paying $20, Insider reported.

However, videos shared on social media showing the experience raised concerns, as people said the bird was being mistreated by zoo staff by exposing it to bright lighting.

A petition to "Save This Mistreated Kiwi" was signed by over 10,000 people immediately after the videos went viral on social media.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation also released a statement saying that it would reach out to the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums about the situation.

"We would like to thank everyone who has raised concerns about Pāora, the kiwi at Miami zoo," the statement read, as per The Guardian.

Zoo Miami communications director Ron Magill told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that the Kiwi encounter at the zoo was a "huge mistake here."

"I am embarrassed that we're in this position. This was not well conceived when they came up with this plan. The thought was 'well, since the bird is eating and seems very healthy and doing well, that this is something that maybe we could do'," Magill told the radio broadcaster. "We were wrong."

The zoo also released a statement, noting, "Please know that Paora is normally kept out of public view in a quiet area. This area provides him with a special shelter that enables him to remain in relative darkness during the day so that he can, at his discretion, come out and explore his habitat in the quiet of the evening."

"Plans are presently underway to build a special habitat for him that will continue to provide him with the shelter that he needs while respecting and supporting his natural instincts. It will be developed in such a way that we can teach our guests about the amazing kiwi without any direct contact from the public," the statement continued.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins later reacted to the incident while talking to the media, saying it "shows a lot of Kiwis take pride in our national bird when they're overseas."

"The New Zealanders who witnessed what was happening there caught it pretty quickly," he explained, adding that the zoo had "made public statements of regret on what's happened, and I acknowledge that and thank them for taking it seriously."

There are only about 70,000 wild kiwi left in New Zealand but numbers are rising thanks to dozens of community initiatives to protect them