By ROSALEEN MacBRAYNE
The use of a dead kiwi as a publicity stunt by a campaigner against 1080 poison has dismayed Department of Conservation staff.
The stuffed bird was found in a freezer at a Wairoa property in July.
In the Wairoa District Court yesterday Phillip Anderton, 52, unemployed, admitted charges of taking a kiwi and of possessing absolutely protected wildlife.
He was fined $500, with $130 costs, on each count.
Anderton has campaigned publicly against the use of 1080 to kill possums on conservation land. The poison has not been known to affect kiwi or blue duck.
East Coast-Hawkes Bay conservancy staff were alerted when Anderton was photographed by the Wairoa Star in June holding a dead kiwi.
In the accompanying newspaper report he claimed to have found the dead bird in Te Urewera National Park four days after an aerial application of 1080 in the area.
Regional conservator Peter Williamson said after the court hearing that it was important to the department to establish what killed the kiwi. Anderton had told department he had returned the bird to the park and buried the body in the bush. He said he did not know how it died but hoped the newspaper photo would cause speculation.
After he refused to provide specific information, a search warrant was obtained.
In a freezer on his property, officers found a kiwi which would not have been wandering round the forest at the time of the 1080 drop, said Mr Williamson.
It was sent to Massey University for autopsy but the cause of death could not be confirmed. In the pathologist's opinion, it was likely the kiwi had been dead for several months.
All bones and internal organs had been removed and the bird's skin was filled with a mixture of felt and polystyrene. A clay mould replaced the skull. The upper and lower beak were broken and had been covered with glue.
Mr Williamson said the kiwi also had a fractured leg at a site where breaks commonly occurred in leg trap injuries. It was identified as coming from the Hawke's Bay/Bay of Plenty kiwi population.
Anderton did not have a permit to hold kiwi. Under the Wildlife Act it is an offence for anyone to possess an absolutely protected animal.
"We still have very serious concerns about how this kiwi died," Mr Williamson said.
The issue was not that a dead kiwi was removed from the bush, but that Mr Anderton refused to pass the body on to DoC.
"If, as appears likely, the kiwi was caught in a trap we really want to know where it was found," he said.
"We do not question the sincerity of Mr Anderton's views on 1080, but his lack of co-operation and the discovery of the stuffed kiwi in his freezer does throw some doubt on the claim that he is an 'avid conservationist'."