Every year, New Zealand holds an online competition for Kiwis to vote for their favorite bird in the country. Hilariously, there has been a lot of drama involved in this seemingly cute and benign contest. There have been countless attempts by individuals to rig the election for their favorite bird. Australians were caught trying to vote for the Shag as a joke. There was even suspected Russian voter fraud in 2020. Putin must be a big fan of the Little Spotted Kiwi. This year, there is once again controversy this time it is for who they allowed into the competition; a native New Zealand bat.
The Pekapeka-tou-roa or long-tailed bat were added to this year’s ballot. No, there wasn’t any insidious hacking or bribing by Big Bat to get it on the list. The simple reason being that they are only two native non-aquatic mammals in New Zealand and pekapeka-tou-roa are in big danger of going extinct. It was put on the ballot to raise awareness of the plight of New Zealand bats. There are only two bats so it wouldn’t be interesting if they were put in a competition for the best New Zealand bats or even mammals. These bats have long been overshadowed by the famous birds of Aotearoa(New Zealand )so let’s get them the attention they deserve. And if we are lucky, the pekapeka-tou-roa will win this year’s competition. Sorry, Kakapo, I love you but you won last year so let the bats have it this year.
PEKAPEKA-TOU-ROA(LONG TAILED BAT)
Pekapeke-tou-roa are tiny , no bigger than a mouse. They can easily fit in the palm of your hand. They eat insects using echolocation at such a low frequency that some people are capable of hearing it. They were once widespread but are now critically endangered. One factor is that they are picky when it comes to trees to roost in so logging and clearing of trees have destroyed their habitat. Another reason is the same threat to New Zealand’s native birds, predation by introduced animals like cats, stoats, and rats.
PEKAPEKA-TOU-POTO (LESSER SHORT-TAILED BAT)
While they are not in the running for this year’s competition, it doesn’t mean that the Pekapeka-tou-poto are not important. They are remarkable as they are the most terrestrial of all bat species. They spend a lot of their time foraging on the forest floor. They are not picky eaters and will eat whatever is available such as insects, fruits, nectar, and so on. They are vulnerable due to the same threats that have endangered the Pekapeka-tou-roa.
Many of the birds and bats in the contest are endangered so please consider donating to help protect these wonderful and unique animals. If you are in New Zealand, you can visit the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre which is a sancturary for many endangered and threatened species of birds, insects ,reptiles, and hey you might even see a bat.