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If its wrong to pet a kiwi - what does that mean for ambassador animal programs

Dr Jake Veasey

May 28, 2023

Recently an American based zoo offended New Zealand by offering the nation's national bird up for petting experiences, leading to an end in the program. What does this tell us about "ambassador" animal programs?

If it’s wrong to pet a kiwi - perhaps it’s time to consider the appropriateness of petting other similar species? Regardless of any potential cultural sensitivities or welfare concerns, what message does being able to book a physical interaction with a wild animal that has little or no agency in the encounter send out? The planet is haemorrhaging biodiversity because of our belief that the natural world is at our disposal, and I wonder whether these physical encounters unintentionally reinforce that despite the “ambassador” epithet?

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