New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2008) 32(1): 7- 17

Tūhoe Tuawhenua mātauranga of kererū (Hemiphaga novaseelandiae novaseelandiae) in Te Urewera

Research Article
Philip O’B. Lyver 1,3
Te Motoi Taputu 2
Spady T. Kutia 2
Brenda Tahi 2
  1. Landcare Research, PO Box 40, Lincoln 7640, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust, PO Box 3001, Ruatâhuna, Rotorua, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Indigenous peoples’ knowledge on changes in wildlife populations and explanations for these changes can inform current conservation and wildlife management systems. In this study, Tūhoe Tuawhenua interviewees provided mātauranga (traditional knowledge) about a repertoire of visual (e.g. decreasing flock size), audible (e.g. less noise from kererū in the forest canopy), and harvest-related (e.g. steep decline in harvests since the 1950) indicators used to assess kererū (New Zealand pigeon; Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae) abundance and condition in Te Urewera, New Zealand over the last 100 years. Metaphorical explanations for the decline in kererū included the loss of mana (authority and prestige) by the iwi (tribe) over the kererū and forest, and the retraction of the kererū’s mauri (life force) by Tāne Mahuta (God of the Forest). Interviewees reported that predation and interspecific competition with introduced species, variability in food supply, and loss of habitat were the principal biophysical mechanisms to have caused declines in kererū abundance. Long-term qualitative monitoring by Tūhoe Tuawhenua has the potential to guide the restoration of kererū and wider environmental management in Te Urewera. Allowing iwi the self-determination to make management decisions according to their mātauranga (or science, if desired) is likely to lead to greater application of results and altered practices where required for sustainability.