2 Jul 2020

Trade in moa bones would be banned under proposed new rules

12:34 pm on 2 July 2020

Moa bones are expected to get greater protection under proposals to ban the trade of extinct species.

Moa bones at Te Pap

Moa bones at Te Papa. Photo: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

The government is proposing to create regulations under the Wildlife Act to ban the sale of moa bones and other remains of extinct species.

Since 2010, there have been more than 350 cases of moa bones and eggshells being put up for sale, many recently removed from protected sites.

"Taking bones and eggshells from protected areas is against the law, " Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said in a statement.

"It harms Aotearoa New Zealand's cultural, scientific and historic heritage and destroys irreplaceable scientific information," she said.

"We have lost too many of our native species, but these lost species, such as moa, remain an important part of our country's heritage, including for Māori whose traditions and whakapapa include moa and other extinct birds, and for science."

The government has launched a discussion document on its plan.

The proposals to use regulations under the Wildlife Act to prohibit the sale of the remains of extinct species would have some special exceptions.

Exemptions would include sales necessary for scientific purposes or to protect Māori cultural practices or values, and related trade activities such as in ancient Māori artefacts and antique jewellery.

Generally, Māori cultural exchange of moa and other extinct species would not be covered by the prohibition and would not require any authorisation, Sage said.

Thousands of ancient Moa bones are stored at Te Papa's Natural History Store in central Wellington.

Te Papa curator Colin Miskelly

Te Papa curator Colin Miskelly Photo: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

Curator Colin Miskelly said regulations must be strengthened so people could not take the precious taonga from natural habitats.

"If they've got them because they want to make a profit - sorry it is going to stop," he said.

Submissions on the proposals are open until late September.

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