Warning: Images below could be distressing.
A protected native seabird appears to have been shot with a crossbow in what Kaikōura iwi and the Department of Conservation have called an "abhorrent" act.
A red-billed gull/tarāpunga, which has legal protection and is a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu, has been reported recently flying near Kaikōura with what appears to be a crossbow bolt through its chest.
The bird was believed to have been last seen on Thursday, February 27, near the road tunnels in the Barney's Rock-Panau Island area, south of Kaikōura, according to DoC.
The gull was said to be flying and behaving normally, but would be in much discomfort.
Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and DoC are appealing for information about the shooting of the gull.
DoC South Marlborough Operations Manager Phil Bradfield said they were seeking to prosecute whoever was responsible.
"It's unacceptable to kill or harm protected native gulls.
"Though the gull or gulls seen were still able to fly and seemed to be behaving normally, the injury would likely be causing distress."
As red-billed gulls are commonly seen in coastal areas, many people don't realise that their numbers are declining nationally and are classed as "at-risk: declining", he said.
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There are less than 100,000 red-billed gulls remaining, but over the next 30 years their numbers are expected to fall by between 50 and 70 per cent
Kaikōura is historically a stronghold for red-billed gulls. The species' largest South Island breeding colony is on Kaikōura's rocky shores.
But the gulls' breeding success and the size of the colony have decreased markedly over the past 20 years and the population is in serious trouble.
Hunting or killing protected wildlife carries a maximum penalty of up to two years' imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000, or both.
A Kaikōura man was convicted of killing nine red-billed gulls when he drove over them on Kaikōura wharf last June.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of hunting or killing absolutely protected wildlife in breach of the Wildlife Act 1953 and was sentenced to three months' community detention.
A Christchurch man was fined $3000 last May for driving through a flock of gulls at Kaikōura, killing three red-billed gulls.
Anyone with information about the recent incident can contact DoC on its 24-hour number 0800 36 24 68.