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A Takahe is not a Pukeko

Written By: - Date published: 9:08 am, August 22nd, 2015 - 57 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment - Tags: ,

Takahe Pukeko

There is a saying amongst public servants that you can squeeze an organisation but when the pips start coming out you know you have gone too far.

The Department of Conservation is showing signs of the pips coming out. It used a local chapter of the Deer Stalkers to use split second judgment before deciding if they were shooting pest Pukekos or priceless Takahes.

Both birds look similar. But Takahes are larger and do not fly. They are also facing extinction. There are only 263 of them left. You would think that DOC would be careful when allowing anyone to shoot guns near them. And a Deerstalker is probably good at spotting deers but may struggle to tell the difference between the two birds.

So a bunch of deer stalkers were allowed onto Motutapu Island and shot some Takahe who look like Pukeko which they were meant to shoot.

Couldn’t DOC afford some professional Pukeko cullers? Are they that lacking in cash that they had to let some good old boys with guns go on a shooting spree?

DOC is reporting that the Takahe were killed by shotgun pellets. You know where you fire a cartridge and pellets get sprayed over a wide area. Whoever though that shotguns and not single shots should be used needs to take responsibility.

The Government’s response is to talk about prosecutions of said good old boys for shooting birds that looked very similar to the birds they should have been shooting but were slightly fatter. While using shotguns and firing shotgun pellets. This is a classic example of an attempt to shift the blame.

I get the strong impression the pips are coming out and the future of the Takahe is being compromised because of a lack of resources meaning that cash strapped DOC is making stupid decisions. And the Government needs to wear this, not a bunch of good old boys allowed to shoot shotgun pellets.

57 comments on “A Takahe is not a Pukeko ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    Strange that you keep focussing on takahe being fatter but otherwise similar birds.

    There is one very basic difference between them, which would give 100% success rate in avoiding deaths of takahe – only shoot birds that are flying.

    DOC says they told the deer stalkers this. The deer stalkers evidently didn’t listen.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      The birds were killed by shotgun pellets. The deerstalkers may have shot at Pukeko but the Takahe may have been caught in the spray.

      • Naturesong 1.1.1

        If the hunters only shot birds that were on the wing, the likelyhood of any Takahe being caught in the crossfire is approximately zero.

        Four birds were killed.

        Until an alternate explanation appears, it looks like one or more of the “hunters” didn’t know what they were doing, and didn’t particularly care.

        Or to quote what a hunter friend of mine said when the news broke: Fucking cowboys!

        • Dave

          Pukeko barely fly either, hence the name ‘bush chicken.’ I’d have thought avoiding shooting the fat ones with bands on their legs would be a better thing to tell these idiot deerstalkers.

          • Naturesong

            I agree, it’s not hard.

            If you see a bunch of birds with blue feathers and you’re not sure which are which?
            The ones acting like assholes are Pukeko.

            Also, the hunters were told to only shoot birds on the wing.

      • cricklewood 1.1.2

        A Shotgun is the appropriate weapon to shoot what are fast moving mobile birds. Given the effective range and spread of shotgun pellets the chances of accidentally killing a Takahe would be next to zero. The far greater likelihood is misidentification and a deliberately aimed shot.
        Also using a rifle for a mass bird cull with multiple hunters on an island would be ineffective not to mention extremely hazardous.

        The sole issue is the engagement of inexperienced and inappropriate hunters for a bird cull in a sensitive area. Squeezed or not DOC should not have allowed this to happen.

        • Macro

          The sole issue is the engagement of inexperienced and inappropriate hunters for a bird cull in a sensitive area. Squeezed or not DOC should not have allowed this to happen.

          That it is it in a nutshell – and yes a shot gun is the the appropriate weapon for the pukeko on the wing. But they really only fly when startled. and usually only a short distance.
          They breed like rabbits too. We had about a hundred of the buggers on our block – and they stole practically every persimmon, pear, apple, and peach we ever grew. Whenever I see people with pottery pukeko ornaments in their garden I have a wry smile to myself – if those birds were live, the people wouldn’t be thinking they were so attractive.

  2. Jono 2

    DOC has had the guts ripped out of it over the last few years so this is not a surprise. In the last six months my partner, their current manager, their former manager, and several equally experienced colleagues have resigned from the same North Island office-more than a hundred years experience gone and all as a result of the 2013 restructure.

    Al Morrison has a shitload to answer for, running the restructure and then bailing for the SSC and leaving the implementation to Lou Sanson who, to be fair, is doing the best with the shut sandwich he has been left with.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Bloody sorry to read that Jono.

      As a life-long keen tramper and ex-club officer I’m vividly aware of how much frontline DoC staff achieve with so little love from their political masters. And what you write merely confirms the stupidity, incompetence and willful arrogance of this govt’s treatment of DoC.

      What absolutely enrages me is seeing political flunkies like Morrison parachuted into DoC – with absolutely no bloody idea what they are doing. Zero professional experience in the work of the department – but plenty of political connection. The result is ALWAYS a fuckup. Which you have to think was the intended outcome.

      Good luck to Lou Sanson. I’ve never met him, but the latest Federated Mountain Club journal speaks well of him. Shit he has a job ahead of him.

      • weka 2.1.1

        Morrison was the perfect Trojan horse. All that time previously on RNZ where he was so reasonable and the middle classes loved him. But in reality he was a conduit for some pretty fucked up political maneuverings.

        • Macro

          So true. I was astounded with the “revisions” he undertook. An absolute disaster, and this tragedy is a direct result.

  3. weka 3

    “The Government’s response is to talk about prosecutions of said good old boys for shooting birds that looked very similar to the birds they should have been shooting but were slightly fatter. While using shotguns and firing shotgun pellets. This is a classic example of an attempt to shift the blame.”

    Bet that’s going to go down well with the hunting and rural community. And what effect is that going to have on the volunteer community, on which DOC is highly dependent? Is the Deer Stalkers Ass going to want legal contracts next time?

  4. Charles 4

    Always identify your target. There is no excuse. The birds aren’t shooting back, you can get really close to a puk, and they don’t move all that fast.

  5. dukeofurl 5

    Deerstalkers Club?

    Since when did deerstalkers use shotguns ?. Or have any experience with shooting birds.

    It was clearly DUCKHUNTERS they were using, the ‘deerstalkers’ is clearly a coverup

  6. meconism 6

    Or raid the nests of the pukeko and stand on the eggs before they hatch then you don’t have to take guns near critically endangered birds period.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Such approach requires a time machine if it is the adult population they are trying to control.

    • freedom 6.2

      which nest is which meconism?

      View post on imgur.com

      now imagine different light conditions, weather, physical tiredness of the person involved.
      (and maybe the person compiling the image played around with the number of eggs in the nest to prove a point)

      If the mature bird is being misidentified you really think finger-crossing egg smashing is a solution?

      may as well do this in that case

      View post on imgur.com

      • Horrified as I am by the ‘accidental’ killings of the takehe. I have heard stories of hunters putting possums on possum free islands just to piss off DoC, felling of native trees just to piss off conservationists, could this have been a deliberate action to damn DoC.
        Also in the UK it is a recognised action to coat eggs in Vaseline, these will not hatch but the birds will still sit on them, preventing them from laying more eggs and hence reducing reproduction rates. So once a year greasing of eggs in Spring may lower the pukeko numbers.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    If they were serious they’d’ve picked off the pukekos with a .22 – on the ground, after scrupulous IDing. One takehe fatality might be conceivable human error, four is on a par with National’s economic policy – epic stupidity. It seems reasonable to conclude that Treasury is involved – epic stupidity is their modus operandi.

  8. greywarshark 8

    How can you trust any bunch of shooters. Even if they are mostly experienced and trying to identify their targets and follow all rules, they still have an underbelly that can shoot each other when out on a weekend sporting trip or the unforgettable situation of a walker being killed while cleaning teeth outside a trampers hut.

    DoC has not kept its quality, experienced and reliable staff as permanents for years. Just use whoever is available when the appropriate time for action comes up. They have forced so many good people to step away because of the lack of continuity from DoC. Their lack of adequate budget, commitment and care in conserving all the animals and birds under their care, with much being needed by volunteer citizens, has led to losing the human skilled workers who are informed and committed to the task.

    It is probably because of the ‘lean machine’ employing contractors idea that has been current so long. What a load of shut. By the time contractors are paid either their inordinate expense has cost twice that of one or two permanent employees or else the job is not done satisfactorily by people who, if they are lucky, manage to contact someone with the requisite background historical institutional knowledge.

    • weka 8.1

      Not all hunters are the same. There are plenty of responsible hunters out there who don’t shoot other people because they know what they are doing and they pay attention to the rules.

      Using contracted, experienced hunters rather than training DOC staff to be good hunters makes sense to me. I suspect the problem here was one of supervision (by DOC and/or by the Deerstalkers Ass or whoever). Probably also training re bird ID, and trusting people too early.

      It’s pretty routine for contracted herbicide sprayers to spray native broom because they can’t tell the difference between it and introduce broom. But it’s a pretty easily learned skill, so something else is going on.

      DOC staff make mistakes too. You just have to hang around rural communities with a big DOC presence to hear those stories.

      • RedLogix 8.1.1

        Using contracted, experienced hunters rather than training DOC staff to be good hunters makes sense to me.

        Absolutely. What they really needed were some experienced pest-control professionals, the kind of guys who safely put 10,000 rounds through their rifle every year. Most hunters, even good ones, are just keen amateurs by comparison.

      • greywarshark 8.1.2

        My point is that DoC don’t try hard to keep experienced workers even if they are employed just over a season. Keeping the past valuable employees on a list for priority for next year is not an automatic system in all the Department.

        And the point of experienced contracted hunters rather than trained DoC staff isn’t strong. Why not have a list of shooter employees available for casual work, who are proved and experienced for DoC purposes? An experienced contract shooter is a step away from someone known and proved to Doc.

        • weka

          DOC have been seriously underfunded for a long time and relying on volunteers for just as long. I agree that some of their processes are inefficient, but I would see most problems as arising from the funding first (and then other causes after that).

          “An experienced contract shooter is a step away from someone known and proved to Doc.”

          Maybe it varies around the country, but most DOC workers I know aren’t experienced shooters. DOC contract in for various things including pest control, and there is no reason why that can’t be done competently. In this instance I’d want to know if there was a DOC officer on site while the shoot was happening.

          • greywarshark

            I am not saying that regular DoC employees should have to be good gunmen. I am saying that they should have the experienced shooters that are trusted and informed and willing to be employed on a casual basis, on a list and call on them first. Then you don’t get eager beavers who know what they know and don’t know what they don’t know and …..Donald Rumsfeld style.

  9. Stephen Dickson 9

    It seems there is a high rate of naive people here.
    If you think doc haven’t done this killing endangered critters before well, another sadly mistaken bunch of people. And it has been happening for a lot if years. Yeh Yeh doc restructure is bad. But they were killing protected animals before that. They have poisoned all kinds of animals but no one seems to give a shit about that.
    Why worry now? Because they were actually shot???

    Then you have to ask yourself, why are they killing off another native bird, namely the Pukeko?

    • weka 9.1

      I don’t know the area concerned, but I’m guessing that Pukeko are outcompeting the Takahe for food and nesting sites.

      “But they were killing protected animals before that.”

      I alluded to that above, but didn’t want to get into specifics and DOC bashing as then I’d have to start naming all the stupid shit I’ve seen hunters do and then between them we’d be here all day.

      • Macro 9.1.1

        “I don’t know the area concerned, but I’m guessing that Pukeko are outcompeting the Takahe for food and nesting sites. ”

        Yes pukeko breed prolifically, and needed to be culled.

        • Naturesong

          Also Pukeko will raid nests and eat any chicks and eggs they can separate the parents from.
          They did that to our local duck population.

          They’re bastards.

          • weka

            funny how Pūkeko managed to live ok within their ecosystem until that larger 2 legged arrived and fucked everything up and now likes to blame the Pūkeko.

            Breeding like rabbits… yous could always take the permaculture approach, the problem is the solution.

            • marty mars

              lol the hating on Pūkeko is absurd – oh they eat the veges and compete for food with other birds and animals oh they must be EVIL and we must DESTROY THEM.

              • weka

                I’ve always liked them. I seem to remember they are very social within their own species. I would feel gratitude to have some living here, but then they’re rare in many places.

                • they are interesting birds in that they can pair bond but also, “In many areas, pukeko live in permanent social groups and defend a shared territory that is used for both feeding and breeding. Social groups can have multiple breeding males and females, but all eggs are laid in a single nest and the group offspring are raised by all group members.”


                  personally I just like their big feet.

              • Because I find the habits of Pūkeko distasteful that must be the only reason I support the cull?

                Or, it might be I support DoC’s action as a way to increase the likelihood of Takahe avoiding extinction.

                Killing something because you don’t like it, or find it icky, or other frivolous reason is to be an ignorant child.

                • weka

                  it’s possible to support the restoration of Takahē without hating Pūkeko or seeing them as bastards. Do you think that Pūkeko were in balance with Takahē and ducks before humans destroyed so much ecosystem? It seems strange to me that we would hate on a bird species for being natural.

                  • I don’t like Pūkeko because used to lived next to a lot of them for a few years.
                    Nothing at all to do with the cull.

                    I’m also not that fond of Tui.
                    They bully the pair of fantails that say hello to me most mornings.
                    This also has nothing to do with the cull.

                  • lprent

                    Yes indeed, Weka… 😈

    • greywarshark 9.2

      In war there is such a thing as ‘collateral damage’. That is where, despite attempts to avoid it, civilians are killed. DoC is conducting a war on small predators and while it would be true to say that they have killed protected species, it is a sweeping statement to imply that it happens regularly, that they aren’t concerned about it and don’t want to keep it to a minimum. I would bet that if they followed whatever your idea is for solving their problems, the outcomes would be better for the protected species and for people in the area.

      It is an emotional argument you make. I guess you are involved in schemes for saving and protecting species. But just seeing DoC as the enemy is not a sensible approach.

      • maui 9.2.1

        +1, sadly many of the people pointing the finger at DoC at accidental poisoning have vested interests. i.e. they’re hunters and DoC are on their patch. Improving NZ’s fauna and flora is not the no.1 priority of these people.

        • weka

          while that may be true, I don’t think we can call 1080 bykill poisoning an accident.

        • greywarshark


        • weston

          your last sentance is is just a tad final maui im a hunter and care very much about our fauna and flora but that doesnt mean i agree with throwing all sorts of poison arround to fix the problem for one thing we have our clean green reputation to live up to and for another its extreamly wastefull to throw away valuable resources .doc amongst others are guilty of vast over use of poison in fact would like to use more .i like pooks .i think they are an amirable species especially their ability to live in the noisy mess which we have made of what used to be their own patch.perhaps penning the newcomers for a while might be a good idea while the shooting is going on ….if it has to go on

          • maui

            The way I see the facts and the way DoC seems to as well is that 1080 is the best way to reduce pests numbers. I don’t believe it does effect our clean green image, it’s toxicity doesn’t last long in the environment, there are much more longer lasting and unsafe poisons widely used in pest control by our regional councils for example. It’s never been detected in any populations water supply, it doesn’t effect food sources (plants), it doesn’t accumulate in the environment. I would also put a good deal of probability that it is one of our most widely researched chemicals that we use in the environment, considering we’ve been using it for over 50 years now.

            Hunters opposition to it I think is because it effects their sport, which is fair enough to be upset about. But it is not because they understand conservation or how ecosystems work better. I would admit that poisoning animals like deer and morepork isn’t great from an animal welfare point of view, I think it’s deemed as “moderately humane”. Then again without poison, many more indigneous species would have disappeared from certain places in the jaws of a predator so I don’t see that as humane either. I would prefer there were automatic traps setup through the NZ countryside and where pest animals had become a rarity, but I’m not sure if we have the resources to get there.

            • weston

              a couple of points maui first i dont hunt for sport i hunt for food .second despite yr cited 50 yrs experience we still have absolutely zero correct me if im wrong reserch on how 1080 affects humans.perhaps 1080 just passes harmlessly through our bodies but through secondary poisoning kills dogs and other animals stone dead . of course id rather eat my meat free of 1080 just in case !1if you compare 1080 with the herbacide roundup the same claims of harmlessness are made roundup breaks down quickly etc etc but i know if i keep applying roundup to the same areas repeatedely that the situation changes its simpley not true that it just breakes down harmlessly the data doesnt fit anymore and it fucks the soil for some time witness the weeds that will and wont grow in that particular environment .so just because the science makes the statement that something is safe doesnt make it safe in actuallity there are such things as vested interests and there are a shit load of vairiables .though many poeple hunt for sport many people hunt to put food on the table and theres a big differance .i also think that theres no such thing as moderately humane as far as poisons are concerned i think that very probably its a horrible way to go

    • Jenny Kirk 9.3

      The Pukeko is not native. Its Australian. and it breeds like rabbits do, and eats Takahe eggs and young chicks. Its a pest. Not an endangered indigenous species.

  10. greywarshark 10

    Jenny stated that pukeko is not an endangered indigenous species. And she makes some points about its omnivorous? habits. And that it is a pest. And that it breeds fast. Marty Mars had interesting info on their social habits. Those are facts to be going on with. I feel I have learned a lot about the pukeko.

  11. So how many native birds do DoC kill with 1080?
    Given the choice I think the Takahe would prefer to be shot.
    DoC – Department of Cruelty

  12. I feed about 6 Pukeko each morning, along with my 7 chickens and 2 ducks.
    When the Pukeko get a fright they ‘fly’ about 10 – 20 feet at the most, and about 6 foot off the ground, unless they are flying down into the bottom paddock, when they get a bit higher because of the contours of the land.
    And just like chickens, when/if the gun comes out (a 177 slug gun) you can’t see them for dust. I would guess the sound of a shotgun would ground them for quite a while, These ‘hunters’ would have had to poke around under the scrub, and maybe just shot a blue lumps?
    I have seen them on the roof of the glass house, but not when there are shot guns going off.

    • greywarshark 12.1

      Robert Atack
      Try being objective. The situation is not whether you can interact with pukeko. It is about how very endangered takahe got shot instead of unwanted pukeko which breed like humans. And there are so many humans with brains just like pukekos so it is nice to be able to get onto their wavelength so easily. Perhaps we need more humans that can think like takahe.

  13. hello 13


    In the Wing, on the Wing, So confusing for those deer hunters to understand.

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