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


DOC is calling for information from the public after a rare matuku-hūrepo/Australasian bittern had to be euthanised after it was shot.

Date:  29 June 2023

A rare matuku-hūrepo/Australasian bittern had to be euthanised after it was shot at a rural western Waikato location, prompting DOC to call for information from the public and remind hunters to clearly identify their targets.

DOC Principal Compliance Officer Hayden Loper says the incident near Oparau on Kawhia Harbour was reported to DOC by a former staff member in late May.

The former DOC staff member was alerted to the bird’s plight, when it was discovered on a neighbour’s property, and then taken to a local bird carer. Initial veterinary triage was undertaken at Otorohanga Kiwi House, before it was subsequently transferred to Massey’s Wildbase facility, which specialises in native bird care.

X-rays of the bird confirmed it had been shot through the right wing, fracturing the animal’s wing in several places. A lead pellet was embedded in the bird’s neck, causing lead poisoning.

Hayden Loper says Wildbase staff attempted to repair the bird’s wing through surgery, but the animal was euthanised to prevent further suffering. There have been investigations locally, without success, so DOC staff opted to publicise the incident.

“There are two really concerning aspects to this,” says Hayden. “Firstly, matuku-hūrepo are absolutely protected wildlife and it’s a breach of the Wildlife Act to harm or kill them.

“Secondly, whoever has shot this bird has used lead shot, which is banned in the vast majority of hunting and shooting circumstances.”

Hayden Loper says matuku-hūrepo are a significant bird to mana whenua, appearing in various legends and stories. They are also among New Zealand’s rarest birds, with a population of less than 1000 and classified as “threatened – nationally critical”, meaning they are at risk of extinction without protection.

The shooting of the matuku-hūrepo also reinforces the need for all hunters and shooters to clearly identify their target – in any and all circumstances.

Anyone with information on the shooting of this bird is urged to call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468), or email


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