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Iwi Gift Sperm Whale Skeleton to Te Papa

11 December 2006


Iwi Gift Sperm Whale Skeleton to Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) and Te Kawerau ä Maki iwi from the Waitakere region are delighted to announce the gifting of the skeleton of a bull Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) by the iwi to Te Papa.

The skeleton from an animal, measuring a staggering 17.8 metres in length, will be the only complete skeleton of a male Sperm whale in any New Zealand museum collection.

The gift will be formalised on 13 December with the signing of an agreement between the Board of Te Papa and the Te Kawerau ä Maki Kaumatua Council to facilitate the ongoing joint management of the skeleton. The official signing will take place in front of the articulated skeleton from 1pm at Te Papa’s Tory St research facility (media are welcome).

This bull Sperm whale was the largest of a pod of twelve animals that were reported stranded on 15 November 2003 at Karekare Beach near Waitakere, Auckland.

After discussion between the Department of Conservation (DoC) and Te Papa with Te Kawerau ä Maki, the iwi agreed to gift the skeleton (including jaws and teeth) of this whale to the national museum. Te Papa staff along with DoC staff and volunteers retrieved the skeleton, and since then have been preparing and articulating it for a large scale touring exhibition on whales that will open to the public in November 2007.

The deformed jaw bones and teeth of a smaller animal (11m) were also gifted to Te Papa. DoC staff and volunteers also removed the remaining ten jaw bones, for the iwi, the largest of which was prepared by Te Papa in conjunction with DoC and returned to the iwi in August 2005.

“With the signing of this agreement, Te Kawerau ä Maki and Te Papa unite in the bonds of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of this important specimen for the benefit of all New Zealanders, now and in the future, “said Dr Seddon Bennington, Chief Executive, Te Papa.


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