More weka evidence

New evidence has come to light in the case of the Brighton weka but, although some of the pieces are coming together, the mystery of how the weka reached the area is no closer to being solved.

Since the story of the weka, which was killed after it was hit by a Brighton resident's car on Sunday, appeared in the Otago Daily Times on Wednesday, the Department of Conservation (Doc) has been contacted by five people who reported seeing wekas, including one sighting in Dunedin's Woodhaugh Gardens which turned out to be a dead hen pheasant.

Doc biodiversity assets programme manager David Agnew said perhaps the most interesting sighting came from Don Frengley, who reported seeing a group of adults and at least one chick while surveying on a piece of land near Waihola about 10 years ago.

Three people had also come forward saying they had seen a weka in the Brighton area in the days leading up to the weka being struck by the car, Mr Agnew said.

Weka experts had also come forward and identified the bird as a young male brown morph western weka, which lived in the South Island, he said.

In an effort to get more information on the bird, it has been sent to Massey University's Wellington campus, where it will be DNA tested.

Massey University Associate Prof Steve Trewick said the tests could help determine where in New Zealand the bird came from.

Mr Frengley, who was working as a contractor for a forestry contractor when he believed he saw a group of weka about 10 years ago, told the Otago Daily Times he was "absolutely sure" about his sighting, which he made while on a reasonably isolated piece of land south of Waihola.

"I am familiar with them and familiar with their call and they were in the bush calling and a number of them came out in a paddock area," he said.

He remembered seeing at least two adults and one or two chicks.

"The fact that somebody found one in the Brighton area indicates to me that it is likely there are more through that area," he said.

Mr Frengley did not think to contact Doc about the sighting at the time because he "didn't realise that weka were in short supply in the Otago coast area".

Mr Agnew said, despite all the new information, Doc was "probably" no closer to finding out how the weka got to Brighton.

"We may never know," he said.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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