The Department of Conservation's (DoC) Kauaeranga Visitor Centre is now a temporary home to a complete moa skeleton.
The skeleton is a long-term loan from local conservationist Doug Ashby, also known as "The Lizard Man" through his voluntary work educating on New Zealand's reptiles and has been compiled from the bones of several specimens uncovered in Riverton, Southland.
The moa bones were discovered when land near Riverton was drained for pasture. Kauaeranga Visitor Centre supervisor Wendy Hillerich says the moa skeleton is an exciting and interesting addition to the visitor centre and it's the first time it has had a moa skeleton on display.
"We've been working with Doug on this display for about 18 months. He is a familiar face at the visitor centre so we're delighted to be able to give this specimen a semi-permanent home."
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Ashby came into possession of the skeleton in 2005 after a trip to Southland. The skeleton was owned by the proprietor of a local motor camp and when Ashby expressed an interest in the skeleton, the then-owner offered it to him.
The skeleton is of a stout legged moa (Eurypateryx curtus) and is estimated to be 1000 years old. Stout legged moa were a medium-sized species, standing about 1.5m tall, and were found in the Coromandel. This species lived in shrubland and their beak shape and structure shows they preferred a diet of soft plant material and fruit.
One interesting feature of the skeleton is its posture, with the moa's head at about the same level as its body. "Many depictions of moa show the birds with their heads held quite high, but the advice we have is they tended to keep their heads down, so that's how this specimen has been presented. Moa were long birds, not tall birds."
When swamp deposits of sub fossil bones are found, they are often a jumble of bones and not jointed examples of the living birds. So, reconstructing can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle and many early examples of moa skeletons were not accurate.
The moa skeleton at Kauaeranga Visitor Centre is encased in a glass cabinet, together with a display of the various sizes of eggs from different moa species. Display panels give a range of information about the species of moa in New Zealand.
Kauaeranga Visitor Centre is a key asset for DoC in the Coromandel, acting as a gateway for the district and providing educational and camping experiences for visitors. For more information and opening hours click here.