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Kaikohe Man Pleads Guilty To Kukupa Hunting

A Kaikohe man this week pleaded guilty to two charges in relation to hunting, killing and being in possession of kukupa (NZ native woodpigeon) which has absolutely protected status under the Wildlife Act.

Department of Conservation, Northland compliance co-ordinator Ross Atkinson said the charges relate to an incident that occurred at the end of May where the man, Paul Graham Harris, was observed leaving a forested area at Mt Hikurangi, in the Awarua area.

DOC staff then observed Mr Harris placing a large pack and a rifle in undergrowth on one side of the road. A search of the pack revealed two plucked native wood pigeons that had been shot with a small calibre rifle.

When spoken to by the conservation officers Mr Harris admitted he had camped in the forest overnight and had shot the pigeons with a .22 rifle.

He was convicted and after hearing the DOC submissions on behalf of kukupa was fined fined $600 + $130 court costs on each offence totalling $1460.

DOC also sought and gained forfeiture of his firearm and camping equipment.

The New Zealand native pigeon (kukupa, kereru) are the only surviving bird species capable of dispersing the seeds of large fruiting trees such as karaka, miro, puriri, tawa, and taraire, throughout our forests.

A 1993 survey of six Northland forests, showed that kukupa are in serious decline in Northland and have reduced in numbers on average by 50% throughout the region during a thirteen years period. At this present rate of decline it is likely that the kukupa could be locally extinct in some areas of Northland by 2003. Much of this decline is attributed to illegal hunting.

Kukupa are under pressure from competition for food by rats, and possums, while being predated by mustelids (stoat, weasel, ferret), cats, and man. The species has a very low reproduction rate with an average of only egg laid per nesting pair per year. Recent scientific study and film footage shows that kukupa nests are also predated by possum."

In several recent convictions before the Northland Courts these offences have resulted in fines averaging between $750 and $1200 in similar circumstances.

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