Red-billed gulls/tarāpunga offshore in Lyttelton, Canterbury

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and DOC says it's abhorrent that a red-billed gull with an arrow or a crossbow bolt through its chest appears to have been deliberately shot to harm or kill it.

Date:  11 March 2020

The red-billed gull/tarāpunga was seen on Thursday 27 February near the road tunnels in the Barney’s Rock-Panau Island area, south of Kaikōura. It could be the same red-billed gull with what appears to be a crossbow bolt through its chest that has also been reported in the Kaikōura area recently. The gull was said to be flying and behaving normally.

The native tarāpunga is legally protected and is a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu including Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura. Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and DOC are appealing for information about the shooting of the gull, including information to help identify who is responsible. 

DOC South Marlborough Operations Manager Phil Bradfield says DOC takes seriously anyone harming or killing tarāpunga and seeks to prosecute anyone who does this.

“It’s unacceptable to kill or harm protected native gulls. Though the gull or gulls seen were still able to fly and seemed to be behaving normally, the injury would likely be causing distress.

“We’d like to hear from anyone who has information about this, and they’re asked to call our DOC 24-hour number 0800 DOC HOT / 0800 36 24 68.

“As red-billed gulls are commonly seen in coastal areas, many people don’t realise that their numbers are declining nationally. The species currently has a conservation status of ‘at-risk: declining’.

“Kaikōura historically is a stronghold for red-billed gulls with the species’ largest South Island breeding colony on Kaikōura’s rocky shores. The gulls’ breeding success and the size of the colony have decreased markedly over the past 20 years and the population is in serious trouble.”

Nationally, there are now less than 100,000 red-billed gulls left, and over the next 30 years, their numbers are expected to fall by between 50 to 70 per cent.

The offence of hunting or killing absolutely protected wildlife carries a maximum penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

A Kaikōura man was convicted for killing nine red-billed gulls when he drove over them on Kaikōura wharf last June. He pleaded guilty to a charge of hunting or killing absolutely protected wildlife in breach of the Wildlife Act 1953 and was sentenced to three months’ community detention with a 9 pm to 6 am curfew.

A Christchurch man was fined $3000 for driving through a flock of gulls at Kaikōura killing three red-billed gulls.


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