ANIMALS ON THE BRINK. PART 1 - THE HUIA

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Tono kōrero mai

Matthew Lark presents a comprehensive look at some of our native birds, reptiles and insects, which are thought by most scientists to be extinct. The first programme looks at the extinction of, and efforts to recover, the huia, made during the twentieth century. [This programme uses excerpts of archival recordings held elsewhere in the Sound collection.]

Introduction by Matthew Lark, “In March of 1909 Taihape man Henare Hamana went into the Ruahine Range, north of Mount Aorangi. Employed by Augustus Hamilton, Director of the Dominion Museum in Wellington he was to go in search of a glossy black bird, with bright orange wattles and a long white tipped tail. Thirty-nine years later he gave this impression of the calls he’d heard this bird giving when he was a boy. Mr Hamana is here imitating and remembering the huia.”

In 1948 a local shepherd, Tony Batley recognised the importance of preserving Hamana’s gift for performing the huia’s call and drove him to recording studios in Wellington where they made a copy to acetate disc. Batley talks about the experience in an interview.

Lark provides a known history of huia sightings and describes its decline and extinction. Reference is made to naturalist A.W.B. Powell’s book, ‘Native Animals of New Zealand’ and casual sightings by the Melville children west of the Urewera mountains and Petone taxidermist, Charles Pointer at Gollans Valley behind York Bay, Wellington [Excerpt from an interview with Alwyn Owen.]

These latter sightings prompted Mr C.W.G. Betts to search the Akatarawa Range in 1924; other searches were made by government and individuals. Unconfirmed sightings were made in the Pokopoko Bush by Tom Moran, manager of Mangaohane Station, north of Mt Aorangi, in 1917 [as told by R.A.L. Batley]; An unconfirmed huia sighting in 1952 by Bay of Plenty farmers, Ron and Jim Campbell at Mount Urutawa [interview with Ron]; Deer stalker and mountain safety instructor, Ron Ward explains how in 1965 he thought he had found strong evidence of a huia habitat during a hunting trip which prompted further ornithological expeditions encouraged by Robert Falla.

Outro by Matthew Lark, “He concluded that huias may have lived in the remoter parts of the Urewera at least until the mid-1960s. He, like most serious naturalists now believe they are gone completely. Though sceptics may scoff at the massive effort and energy expended by Ron Ward and his teams of volunteers it’s worth remembering if it may indeed have salvaged this bird, if only it had commenced forty years before Ron Ward began.”

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Year 1997

Reference number A271254

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre ENVIRONMENTAL

Series ANIMALS ON THE BRINK