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Endangered bat takes home the 2021 Bird of the Year title

The controversial bat nominee has nabbed the title of 2021 Bird of the Year.

Endangered bat takes home the 2021 Bird of the Year title

Avian alliances, surprise entries and an ‘extinct’ species, this year’s Bird of the Year competition has been filled with plenty of drama.

The annual competition, run by Forest and Bird as a way to raise awareness to threatened species, has become a highlight in the country’s cultural calendar.

The competition’s most controversial candidate has been named the 2021 Bird of the Year, Forest and Bird announced on Monday, 1 November. The pekapeka-tou-roa (long tailed bat) entered the competition for the first time this year, causing a stir amongst voters as the first mammal to be included in the bird competition.

The bat gained a total of 7031 votes, way ahead of the runner-up Kākāpō which got 4072 and third-place titipounamu (rifleman) which got 2808 votes.

“I think I’m going to be fired,” joked Forest and Bird’s Bird of the Year spokesperson Laura Keown.

“The campaign to raise awareness and support for this little flying furball has captured the nation!”

“A vote for bats is also a vote for predator control, habitat restoration, and climate action to protect our bats and their feathered neighbours!”

The endangered bat, which is as small as a thumb, is considered ‘in serious trouble’ due to habitat loss and introduced predators.

Ben Paris, Senior Conservation Advisor at Auckland Council and New Zealand Batman, says the long-tailed bats are a unique part of Aotearoia’s biodiversity, yet many people don’t know they exist.

“There are pekapeka projects spanning the whole country with conservation communities doing great mahi with our bats. Here in Auckland our bat conservation efforts have been supported by our targeted rate which has allowed us, together with our communities, to undertake a lot more work. The more citizen scientists we have out there looking for pekapeka the more conservation work we can do to understand and help them.”

“These bats were added to Forest & Bird’s competition to help people get to know them, and their story has flown around the world!” says Ben.

Photo credit: Department of Conservation / Chris O’Donnell

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