DOC has asked the police to consider suspending the firearms licences of two Auckland men following the shooting of four takahē on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
The four birds were shot during a pūkeko culling operation on the island in August involving members of the local deerstalkers association.
Pūkeko have similar colouring to the flightless takahē and DOC’s Deputy Director General, Operations Mike Slater says all the cullers involved were fully briefed on how to identify their targets and directed to only shoot birds on the wing.
Mike Slater says a detailed forensic investigation, including analysis of pellets found in the birds, confirmed the shots came from the guns of two members of the culling party.
Mike Slater says the men involved were both experienced game bird and shot gun hunters. They had been specifically briefed on the differences between pūkeko and takahē and clearly instructed to only shoot birds on the wing.
“By failing to identify their target, they have breached a fundamental principle of the firearms code. As a result we are referring the issue to the police to assess whether these men should continue to hold firearms licences.”
Mike Slater says pūkeko are a common and aggressive bird that pose a serious threat to many rarer natives and managing pūkeko populations is an on-going issue for DOC and other conservation groups.
He says failure to identify the target was the cause of the takahē deaths on Motutapu but DOC has also developed new national guidelines to standardise planning for future culling operations as a result of this incident.
Mike Slater says these include a directive that all culling operations where threatened species are present must be approved by the Deputy Director General of Operations.