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)."
- The Southland Times
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