The great ‘kiwi in Russia’ mystery!

Department of Conservation —  11/05/2011

So it turns out that the mysterious kiwi, found in the Russian port of Sochi, is actually a common bittern. We’re breathing a sigh of relief that one of our little native cuzzies hasn’t been smuggled away for a life of avian slavery on distant shores! 

But it was also fun while it lasted. Conspiracy theories were starting to gather pace: was this a PR prank to attract attention to Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are due to be held in 2014? That was always a bit dubious, mainly because the most press attention for the story was always going to be in New Zealand, and we’re not really the biggest market when it comes to sending people to the winter games. Maybe finding a Bald Eagle in Sochi (for the US market), or perhaps a bar of Toblerone (for the Swiss), may have been more effective. 

Then there were the obvious implications that somehow the kiwi had embarked on a secret mission, sent to Russia to retrieve state secrets. Clearly many of us still believe that the James Bond novels were non-fiction… 

Special Agent Kiwi

Two burly guards dragged Special Agent Kiwi, battered but unbroken, into the chamber. Above him, Blofeld peered down from the luxury of his black, spinny-round chair.

“We meet at last,” said Blofeld.

“Do you expect me to talk?”

“No. I expect you to go ‘kiwiiiii’” 

But no. It turns out it wasn’t a kiwi after all. A case of once bittern, twice shy… 

Ultimately though, this was a bit of a worry for those of us concerned about New Zealand’s native species. If a kiwi really had been found in foreign parts, what does that mean? Kiwi aren’t good at sneaking onto boats like rats, so it opened up the possibility of smuggling. A court case last week saw two German nationals jailed for trying to take geckos out of the country, and our Customs and DOC Wildlife Enforcement Group remain alert. 

Much of New Zealand’s native wildlife is unique, and very precious to us. New Zealanders ARE kiwis. We are right to be concerned about the plight of our animals, both home and abroad – so stay safe Special Agent Kiwi, your country depends on you.

Learn more:

Find out about New Zealand’s national bird, the flightless and largely nocturnal kiwi

Learn about CITES – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

One response to The great ‘kiwi in Russia’ mystery!


    There was no way a kiwi would have survived that trip, be it accidentaly or deliberately due to smuggling. Relieving news either way.

    – Dave