7:07 PM Thursday Aug 20, 2015
Four birds from a critically endangered species have been killed within a wildlife sanctuary by hunters who thought they were culling pukeko.
The Department of Conservation confirmed today that volunteers from the Deerstalkers Association had shot four takahe while carrying out a cull of 600 pukeko on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf, which is a protected, pest-free haven for endangered bird species.
The embarrassing mistake has angered iwi who approved the transfer of the rare birds from the South Island to the sanctuary.
The takahe were killed by experienced members of the local deerstalkers group, which DOC depends on for some conservation initiatives.
DOC's northern conservation services director Andrew Baucke said pukeko had "very similar colouring" to the flightless takahe and the volunteers may have mixed up the two species. Hunters had been briefed on the differences between the two birds after a similar incident on Mana Island seven years ago, when one takahe was killed.
Mr Baucke said the deaths were "deeply disappointing" for DOC and the volunteers. All culling operations had been put on hold while a review took place.