Tributes have been pouring in for internationally renowned conservationist Don Merton, who dedicated his life to saving threatened native bird species.
Dame Professor Jane Goodall, the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, and naturalist Sir David Attenborough are among those remembering Dr Merton.
Dr Merton, 72, recognised as a pioneer in his field, lost a battle with pancreatic cancer on Sunday morning at his Matua home.
Auckland-born Dr Merton, who with his wife Margaret moved to Tauranga about six years ago, is credited with saving two of New Zealand's iconic birds - the kakapo and the Chatham Island black robin. He also worked tirelessly to try to save many other native species from extinction.
His son, David Merton, who also lives in Tauranga, told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend his father was a visionary and right up to the end was still working on supporting a number of conservation projects. Dr Merton was patron to seven conservation organisations.
"Dad was not a person to argue with people, but he was so resolute when he believed in something and meticulously researched everything he did, firmly believing his scientific research would outlive and outweigh people's naysaying."
Mr Merton, 44, said that included his father talking about eradicating pests such as rats from islands years before it was popular.
He said the day after his father's death the family received his father's Carolina Medal from the World Parrot Trust in recognition of his outstanding work in parrot species conservation. He is one of only three people in the world to have been awarded the honour.
Dr Merton first became a member of the Forest and Bird Society at age 10. He started work with the New Zealand Wildlife Service in the late 1950s and until his retirement in April 2005 was a senior member of the Department of Conservation's threatened species section.
In 1989, he was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to New Zealand and in 1990 received the Royal Society of New Zealand's Sir Charles Fleming Memorial Award for environmental achievement.
In 1992 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from Massey University, and in 1998, the United Nations Environment Programme elected him to its Global 500 Roll of Honour for "outstanding contributions" to the protection and improvement of the environment. During his lifetime he wrote or co-authored more than 145 publications.
Dr Merton is survived by his son and daughter-in-law Jan Tinetti, who is principal of Merivale School, and his two grandsons Liam, 16, and 14-year-old Zak.
A service for Dr Merton heard it was his wish that when he "fell off his perch" that his final journey be in a helicopter as a lot of his conservation work involved flying to remote destinations in one.
Following the service for Dr Merton at Tauranga Yacht Club on Thursday, his body was flown to Pyes Pa Crematorium.
Dr Merton was patron of Tauranga Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre at Oropi.
Chrissy Jefferson, a trustee and the centre's rehabilitation manager, said the world was "far worse off" from the passing of her dear friend.
"Don was a wonderful man who was so inspirational and generous in sharing his knowledge and so encouraging to me personally."
Carole Long, trustee of Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust and longstanding member of the Royal New Zealand Forest and Bird Society, said she had known Dr Merton since 1959 when they worked together at the Internal Affairs Department.
Mrs Long said Dr Merton was a hugely inspirational person.
"He was a quiet man but underneath he was so passionate about his conversation work and such a visionary for what could be done and what was possible.
"Don's motto was to never give up.
"His death is such a tragedy not only for this country but for the world."
The Department of Conservation's Director-General Al Morrison said Dr Merton was a remarkable conservationist.
"It's not many of us who play a pivotal role in pulling an entire species back from the brink - Don did three times."
The techniques he developed set the blueprint for much of DoC's work with endangered species, he said.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said Dr Merton had left "an extraordinary legacy" and the Government planned to honourhim for his commitment to conservation during Conservation Week later this year.
Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague said New Zealand had lost one of its great conservation leaders.
"New Zealand would have been a poorer place if it was not for Don Merton's pioneering techniques to bring native birds back from the edge of extinction."Sandra Conchie and NZPA