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New Zealand halts cull after rare bird deaths

A picture of a takahe on Tiritiri Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf . Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The flightless takahe bird was thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1948

New Zealand has halted a bird cull after marksmen mistakenly killed several birds from a critically endangered species.

Local hunters were permitted to cull pukeko birds on Motutapu Island.

But four takahe birds were shot dead instead. The takahe is twice the size of the pukeko, but they have similar colouring.

Authorities said in a statement they had "carefully briefed" hunters how to differentiate between the two birds.

The statement also said the hunters were told not to shoot them fatally at first, only on the wing.

However, authorities revealed that it was also not the first time such an incident had happened.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The pukeko is smaller and found throughout New Zealand

The statement said a takahe bird was mistakenly shot during a pukeko cull seven years ago, prompting the introduction of guidelines which were used during this cull, which began last week.

The statement added the deaths were "deeply disappointing" and that authorities were speaking to the deerstalkers involved.

There are only about 300 takahe birds left in the world, and the killings have angered Maori groups who agreed to allow the rare birds to be moved to Motutapu for conservation purposes, local media said.

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