A dead kiwi found more than 1000km from home has stumped DOC staff, who believe a secret avian enthusiast could be to blame.
The endangered female kiwi was found in hay barn near Otaki, on the Kapiti Coast, by a farmer. It appeared to have been mauled by a dog.
No kiwis have been seen in the wild around Otaki for more than a century and this particular bird appeared to be a species of southern brown kiwi found in Fiordland and Stewart Island.
Department of Conservation technical adviser Rogan Colbourne said the only plausible explanation was that someone had smuggled the bird more than 1000km from the deep south to Otaki and kept it secretly as a pet.
The bird was also missing a toe, indicating she was once caught in trap and maybe rescued by her then-captor.
Colbourne believes a hunter on a trip in Stewart Island is the most likely culprit and may have been keeping the bird as a pet for years.
"Someone must have thought it was quite novel to have a kiwi as a pet, some bird fancier maybe," he said.
Up until its death the kiwi was well cared for, weighing in at a healthy 3kg, and was probably living in a rural area.
"It's pretty hard to keep a kiwi quiet. If you had one as a neighbour, you would know about it."
While the kiwi was well cared for, keeping it was a offence punishable with up to two years in prison or a $100,000 fine.
"It is irresponsible for people to take protected species from the wild. This female kiwi should have been living in the wild contributing to the breeding population."
DNA tests will be carried out to determine exactly where the kiwi comes from. There is also a small population of the southern brown kiwi on nearby Kapiti Island but Colbourne believed it was unlikely the bird had come from there.
"They can't swim that far."
- The Dominion Post