'We meant no offence': Zoo apologises for using Maori dancers for Australian exhibit


San Diego Zoo has apologised for their entertainment selection after launching an Australian Walkabout exhibit with Maori dancers.

San Diego Zoo has apologised for its choice of entertainment after it came under fire for launching an Australian exhibit with traditional Maori dancers.

The California zoo opened its Walkabout Australia exhibit on Friday which featured kangaroos, kookaburras and wallabies.

But the Facebook live event, streamed to users around the world, also featured dancers in traditional Maori dress of New Zealand.

It was immediately scorned, with numerous comments highlighting the clear disparity.

San Diego Zoo responded to SBS News and said the exhibit launch was part of a wider "Summer Safari entertainment" program which featured a variety of cultures from around the world.

"As part of opening festivities for Walkabout Australia, we previewed our Summer Safari entertainment, which features cultures from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Australia," the spokesperson said.

"In including regional entertainment, we meant no offence and did not mean to imply that Maori are of the aboriginal Australian culture. We have tremendous respect for the peoples, wildlife, and culture of Australasia. Our apologies to anyone who might have been offended by our entertainment selection."

The Facebook live event prompted swift responses at the time from users in Australia and New Zealand.

"If it's Walkabout Australia, why do you have New Zealand Maori at the start. You know New Zealand and Australia are 2 different countries," one Facebook user wrote.

"Why do you have New Zealand Maoris performing at the opening of walkabout Australia? You should know better," another user wrote.

The San Diego Zoo Facebook page replied to the criticism, saying Maori were "native" to both nations, according to Stuff NZ.

This prompted obvious outrage.

"I'm Australian and from a remote Aboriginal community. Two totally different cultures. It's actually sad you don't know the difference," one person commented.

"San Diego Zoo Safari Park, your facts about Maori are 100% WRONG!!! You just offended about 4.6 million New Zealanders and about 25 million Australians," another Facebook user wrote.

The zoo replied on Facebook: "Our sincere apologies. We were given incorrect information. The various entertainment featured recently in Walkabout Australia is a preview of our upcoming event Summer Safari, which features entertainment from all over the globe. Again, our apologies."

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