LEAD STORY: Birdman says moa surviving in the Bay
AS MANY as a dozen moa could be fossicking in remote bush in northernmost Hawke’s Bay, according to Australian “hidden animal” hunters.
Next month they plan to resume the search – confident it’s only a matter of time before a colony is found.
The hopes are held by New South Wales cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy, who says hard-track evidence he and wife Heather found in the Urewera Ranges in November is a sign of the existence of the presumed-extinct anomalopteryx didiformis, otherwise known as the little scrub moa.
The evidence of a track comes six years after the couple found about 35 ground prints they believe to have come from a colony of up to 12 of the moa.
|Speaking from the couple’s Australasian Cryptozoological Research Centre in in Katoomba, Mr Gilroy told Hawke’s Bay Today the evidence is enough to make them return at the end of February to search for the one piece of evidence he’s wanted for as much as 50 years to prove moa are still alive.
The latest find includes a track and what appeared to have been a recently-used nest in big, dead kauri. Moa had possibly nested there, and moa may have come out at night to move across a small isolated gully and onto a ridge in the area. Mr Gilroy has plaster casts of the tracks.
“The location is in pretty remote country, we need to have more time to investigate, and if I can get something on film, that would be tremendous.”
He’s not yet identifying the site, and, conceding only that the couple have entered the Ureweras from the Hawke’s Bay side, says he doesn’t want a lot of noise in the hunt for the species, which stood up to 1.3m.
Previous revelations of hidden-animal kind had sparked invasions of media with cameras, bright lights and helicopters, and gleeful claims that it was all for nothing after a month of racket, which was hardly likely to encourage the big birds to make their long-awaited debut in public.
“I’ve devoted my whole life to the research of these creatures,” said 64-year-old Mr Gilroy.
“And the only way to find them is to go into the environment, just one, two or three people, and wait quietly.”
“You’ve got to be silent in the bush if you’re going to see anything,” he said.
“New Zealand is my favourite place, there is some pretty inaccessible terrain.”
He said it was possible that animal life could survive in such circumstances for “hundreds of years” without being seen by human beings.
Wairoa Land Search and Rescue and Urewera veteran Dave Withers says, however, that with large teams of volunteers covering huge areas of the forest park in searches and training each year he would have heard if some sign of the assumed-extinct birds had been found.
“I’ve never heard of them,” he said.
“With the amount of ground our guys cover, 40 to 60 people, they spread out and cover the ground – surely if they were about in this area I would have heard.”
He said there was “the odd wallaby” in the park, and larger-than-average feral cats, but he was not aware of reports of mystery tracks.
Anomalopteryx didiformis was a flightless bird species known colloquially as the Lesser or Bush Moa. It weighed 30kg and inhabited much of the North Island and small sections of the South Island.
The most complete remains, a partially articulated skeleton with substantial mummified tissue discovered in the South Island in 1980, are now in the Southland Museum.
Cryptozoology is the study of or search for animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological catalogues.
The focus is on finding living examples of animals taxonomically identified through fossil records, but which are believed to be extinct, and animals that fall outside of taxonomic records due to a lack of evidence, apart from myths, legends, or unconfirmed sightings.
Moa hunting resumes after fresh ‘evidence’
By PHIL McCARTHY and NZPA – The Southland Times | Thursday, 10 January 2008
Photos of “moa” footprints in Fiordland and evidence elsewhere in New Zealand have reignited claims the supposedly extinct birds are still roaming the countryside.
New South Wales natural science researcher Rex Gilroy said he was closing in on the colony of the presumed-extinct little scrub moa in the Urewera Ranges.
Mr Gilroy, a cryptozoologist, who studies “hidden” animals _ said he had evidence of a small colony in the Ureweras.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re definitely out there.” Mr Gilroy and his wife Heather plan to arrive in New Zealand in late February and spend several nights in the Ureweras to stake out the site with a camera “for as long as it takes” .
However, Hawke’s Bay cryptozoology researcher Tony Lucas is keeping an open mind on the possibility of moa still being alive in the Ureweras, but thinks the evidence could point to emus.
After the Ureweras expedition Mr Gilroy plans to visit eight sites throughout the South Island, from the Abel Tasman National Park to Lake Te Anau, to investigate other moa sightings.
The possibility of moas existing in Fiordland has also been stoked by an Auckland tramper who auctioned off photos, supposedly of a moa, which he captured while tramping in Fiordland last year.
The photos, including images of footprints and of a 1.8m-plus tall bird, were sold for more than $350 by the tramper, who goes under the seller name Andrewdb on Trade Me.
“I was tramping in Fiordland last Monday and as I came up over a rise, there in front of me was the largest bird I’ve ever seen,” his description of the encounter on the website says.
The auction started a lively debate, with one member stating: “… all back country Kiwis know that the moa’s alive and well, we just didn’t want any bloody tourists finding out.” Several moa “sightings” have been reported over the years, including that of West Coast personality Paddy Freaney, whose 1993 sighting in the Craigieburn Valley in Canterbury received international attention.
The sighting and out-of-focus photograph of what Mr Freaney said was a 2m running bird were taken seriously by the Department of Conservation, which investigated without finding any conclusive proof.
Yesterday, DOC Te Anau area manager Reg Kemper said he had never heard of any moa sightings in Fiordland but did not rule out the possibility.
“There’s no harm in looking, I suppose. I guess if they could be anywhere, they could be (in Fiordland).”