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Stolen huia recovered & restored by Te Papa

President of the Dannevirke Gallery of History Nancy Wadsworth and vice president Murray Holden. POKERE PAEWAI/RNZ.

Pokere Paewai, Stolen huia to be returned to Dannevirke museum after three years, Stuff, 3 February 2023

This story was originally published on and is republished with permission.

A taxidermied huia stolen from a Dannevirke museum will be reunited with her mate today.

The preserved juvenile female of the long-extinct bird was taken from the Dannevirke Gallery of History in July 2020.

Last year she was recovered by the police, who were attending to another matter at a house in Paraparaumu.

After undergoing repairs at Te Papa the huia will be returned to the town at a powhiri at Makirikiri Marae.

The gallery’s vice-president, Murray Holden, said both the community and museum staff were happy to see the huia return at last.

“We’re all absolutely ecstatic that she’s coming back and will be reunited with her mate for life. So we’re just over the moon about it actually that we got her back,” he said.

Manahi Paewai, a kaumātua of the local iwi Rangitāne, said the pair of huia were a gift from some locals to the Gallery of History.

He said seeing the female returned meant the gift was complete once again.

“I think that the whole community will be pleased to know that it’s going to be returned and that’s sort of out and about now. And so it is huge because one without the other… it was never ever going to be complete,” he said.

Huia pairs mated for life, using their different beaks to feed cooperatively.

Holden said the male and female could not live without each other.

Due to damage to her leg, the female huia will not be able to join her mate on display immediately, Holden said.

“Unfortunately she was in quite bad condition, I think when [the thieves] prised it off the branch that it was on they’ve actually broken her neck. Her neck was almost severed and they’ve also damaged her left leg which is missing, it’s no longer there.”

Holden was thankful for the repair work done by Te Papa and said he is confident her leg can be repaired, even reaching out to Weta Workshop for help, who were interested once their schedule allows.

The huia has always had a strong association with the Dannevirke area, which was once covered in dense lowland forest.

This forest stretching from central Hawke’s Bay to just north of Masterton was called Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga, known in English as the forty-mile bush.

Paewai said this forest was an important winter feeding ground for the huia.

The last confirmed sighting of a huia was in the Tararua Ranges, not far south of Dannevirke, in 1907.