Rare New Zealand birds killed accidentally as cull goes wrong

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In a tragic case of mistaken identity, four critically endangered birds have been accidentally killed in after hunters misidentified the animals as a more common species.

The mixup occurred at a sanctuary on Motutapu Island, where volunteers from the Deerstalkers Association, a national body representing hunters, were participating in a regulated cull of up to 600 pukeko or Australasian swamphens – an abundant New Zealand bird that’s considered a threat to other species due to its aggressive nature.

Although the colouring of the takahe is similar to the pukeko, they are at least twice as plump. Image: Ashleigh Thompson

The country’s Department of saysthe hunters were briefed on the distinct differences between the two birds, but according to an official, the pukeko has “very similar colouring” to the flightless takahē, so the volunteers could have mixed up the two species. The takahē is, however, at least twice as heavy as the more common Australasian swamphen.

News of the killings has angered local Maori groups, who agreed to have the rare birds relocated to Motutapu from their native South Island for conservation purposes. “There are even calls for the return home of those birds,” said a member of New Zealand’s parliament. “There is a lot of goodwill that goes with these gifts to improve the and to see that they’ve been needlessly bowled over by some deer hunters is just really disappointing.”

Once abundant across New Zealand’s North and South Islands, the takahē was thought to be extinct for around 50 years until it was rediscovered in 1948. Special protected areas were set up to keep these rare birds safe from introduced predators and other threats. But despite long-running conservation efforts, it’s thought there are still only about 300 takahē left in the country.

The head of the Deerstalkers Association has apologised to the Department of Conservation and to the country at large for the birds’ deaths.

The more abundant, slimmer pukeko or Australasian swamphen. Image: Sid Mosdell

This article was first published by Earth Touch News on 20 Aug 2015.


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Tara Wikramanayake

This is what happens when culling is permitted. All fauna have a right to live. If other species are considered "invasive" why not resort to birth control? This is a far more humane method of controliing populations that are expanding too fast.

Tierra Chapman

'Disappointing'. Are you serious? This would've have been a tragedy, even if the rare birds had not been murdered! Why is 'kill it' always the firstline response to any perceived problem involving non-human beings? No one has a right to take an animal's one precious life, and our species needs to join the fffing 21st century and stop reconciling ourselves to these customary atrocities!

"All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. ALL love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt, what harm can you do?" ~Buddha~

Maria Manuela Lopes

Hunting in a santuary? Disgusting

Lisa Gabrielle Walker-Morley


Dawn Mello

God is the only one who should terminate, not mankind, who is hateful & full of idiots.

Marilyn-Brian Ashman

There shouldn't have been any hunting, for this wouldn't have happened!!.
Especially in a Santuary !!. What the hell !

Oguz Altun