Moa skull and bones

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


Moa bones and other sub-fossil remains of extinct species are set to have improved protection with proposals to prevent the trade in extinct species announced the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage today.

Date:  02 July 2020

“We have lost too many of our native species, but these lost species, such as moa, remain an important part of our country’s heritage, including for Māori whose traditions and whakapapa include moa and other extinct birds, and for science. This plan closes the gap in regulations to protect them,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The plan drafted by the Department of Conservation (DOC) with assistance from museum scientists, intends to tackle the problem of moa bones and other sub-fossil remains being removed from protected sites and sold.”

A discussion document setting out the proposals for public comment was released for public comment today. Submissions are open until 28 September.

Since 2010, museum scientists have documented more than 350 instances of moa bones and eggshells being offered for sale, and in many cases they have identified that these items have been recently removed from protected sites.

“Taking bones and eggshells from protected areas is against the law. It harms Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural, scientific and historic heritage and destroys irreplaceable scientific information” said Eugenie Sage.

“The proposals to use regulations under the Wildlife Act to prohibit the sale of the remains of extinct species, with some special exceptions, would remove the financial incentive that leads a few selfish people to vandalise our natural and cultural heritage,” said Eugenie Sage.

It is proposed to create regulations under the Wildlife Act to prohibit the sale of moa bone and other remains of extinct species.

Exemptions include the authorisation of sales necessary for scientific purposes or to protect Māori cultural practices or values, where gifting and other non-trade methods of transferring ownership could not be used.  Generally, Māori cultural exchange of moa and other extinct species would not be covered by the prohibition and would not require any authorisation.

Related trade activities that do not cause harm, such as the trade of ancient Māori artefacts, antique jewellery and taxidermied specimens would also be exempt from the prohibition on sale.

“Although moa are the main species affected by taking of bones, the remains of other extinct species such as the New Zealand goose have also been traded,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Aotearoa New Zealand’s extinct species are part of our past. They speak to who we are and there is much we can learn from them. Banning the sale of their remains will help protect this precious part of our heritage.”


The maximum penalty for removing objects from public conservation land without authority is two years imprisonment or a $100,000 fine for non-commercial offences, and five years or a $300,000 fine for offences committed for commercial gain.

The discussion document outlining the proposal is open for public submissions until 28 September 2020. Once the consultation period is over, submissions and consultation feedback will be incorporated into final recommendations for the Minister and Government.

Have your say on the discussion document.


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