Plea issued for return of stolen moa bones

The chairman of an isolated Fiordland museum wants the stolen bones of a moa returned, and says no questions will be asked.

Held together by wire, the large hip, leg and foot bones of the local big bird were stolen from the Gunn’s Camp museum in recent months.

Southland deputy mayor Ebel Kremer is chairman of the Hollyford Museum Charitable Trust, and explained that after the camp was damaged by flooding last year, access had been restricted.

However, since the access road was cleared someone had been checking on the site at least every month.

About a month ago on a visit to the museum a trustee found that the bones had been taken.

It was a quiet part of the world usually, aside from the occasional tramper.

Police were notified at the time and yesterday posted to social media asking for anyone who knew anything about the bones to get in touch.

A police spokeswoman told the Otago Daily Times it was believed the bones might have been stolen between July 19 and August 5. The building was secure at the time.

Mr Kremer said after the camp sustained flood damage the trust had removed most items.

Only a few larger items remained, including the moa bones, which totalled at least 2m-3m in length and had been fixed to the wall.

He believed it was possible for one person to carry the bones — the theft, however, was a surprise to the trust.

‘‘It’s quite a blow,’’ Mr Kremer said.

‘‘Really quite disappointing someone would do that.’’

The point of pinching it? A mystery to him.

‘‘You can’t do anything with it ... if they keep them and start showing them off people will say, ‘well, where did you get these?’.

‘‘God knows what they are going to do with it.’’

While the age of the bones was unknown, he said they had been there since the camp was built after it was a public works project in 1938.

The bones had been found in the Hollyford Valley.

Mr Kremer wanted the thief or thieves to know that if the bones were returned there would be no questions asked.

‘‘It’s of no value to you,’’ he said.

‘‘It is to the museum trust and is part of the Hollyford Valley history ... just turn it in and we’ll go our separate ways.’’

It was against the law to sell moa bones found either on Department of Conservation land or an archaeological site.

Then Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced in July last year moa bones and other subfossil remains of extinct species were set to have improved protection with proposals to prevent the trade in extinct species.

Since 2010, museum scientists had documented more than 350 instances of moa bones and eggshells being offered for sale, and in many cases had identified that the items were recently removed from protected sites.

‘‘Taking bones and eggshells from protected areas is against the law,’’ Ms Sage said.

‘‘It harms Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural, scientific and historic heritage and destroys irreplaceable scientific information.’’


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