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Subject: Rare birds shot as cull goes wrong in New Zealand

Written By: Philip Eno on 08/21/15 at 5:25 pm

Hunters in New Zealand have accidentally shot dead four critically endangered takahe birds after mistaking them for another species, it's reported.

The incident occurred when members of the Deerstalkers' Association were permitted to cull up to 600 of the abundant pukeko at a sanctuary on Motutapu Island, off the coast of the country's North Island, the New Zealand Herald reports. The Department of Conservation confirmed that hunters had made the "deeply disappointing" mistake, despite being briefed on the differences between the two species. The highly aggressive pukeko is half the size of the flightless takahe, and is described in bird-watching handbooks as "widespread and easily recognisable". Deerstalkers' Association president Bill O'Leary has apologised "to the department and to the country at large".

There are only about 300 takahe birds left in the world, and the species was thought to be extinct as late as 1948, Radio New Zealand reports. The killings have angered Maori groups who agreed to allow the rare birds to be moved from their native South Island to Motutapu for conservation purposes. Rino Tirakatene, a member of New Zealand's parliament, says there are now calls for the birds to be returned. "There's no way that they would send their treasured takahe to a sanctuary for it to be slaughtered," he says.

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