The survival of a dependent foal was the only positive to come out of the shooting of a mare in Aupouri Forest over Labour Weekend.
So senior SPCA investigator Tracee Knowler said last week, as she continued her investigation.
Ms Knowler said the SPCA had become involved when she responded to a complaint from a member of the public. She advised Summit Forests and the police, then launched an animal welfare investigation to determine who was responsible for "this breach of the Animal Welfare Act".
The SPCA also offered assistance and milk powder to the foster family who were taking care of the foal.
Leaving such a young foal, variously assessed as one to four days old when it was found, would likely be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, probably under the category of ill-treatment of an animal, she added, but, as in all cases, the circumstances would need to be investigated thoroughly, according to the usual animal welfare complaints process.
As of last week the person/s responsible for shooting the mare had not been identified, and no witnesses had come forward with any further information.
"Fortunately, the foal is being cared for by a very generous foster family, and is doing well," Ms Knowler said.
"We would like to thank this family for helping. The foal's survival is the only positive part of this case."
The mare is believed to be only one of several shot over recent weeks. A second foal, believed to have been hours old when it was found, is also being fostered, while a third died, probably of starvation. It is not believed to have been shot.
Aupouri horses have been shot in the past, often, apparently, as a source of dog tucker, but the animals killed over recent weeks were not butchered.
Summit Forests requires that everyone who wishes to enter the forest obtains a permit to do so, and prohibits the carrying of rifles inside the forest.
Meanwhile, Ms Knowler urged anyone who knowledge about the shooting of horses in the forest, or those involved, to contact her on (021) 268-6920 as soon as possible.
"We appreciate all reports of animal cruelty in our community, and encourage the public to call us immediately if they ever have concerns about an animal's welfare," she added.
* The NZ Forest Service actively protected the feral horses in Aupouri Forest, a practice that has continued, most recently by Summit Forests. The horses are regarded as a tourist attraction and are often seen in small herds, in the forest and on Ninety Mile Beach.