New Zealand’s annual Bird Of The Year/Te Manu Rongonui O Te Tau contest is once again beset by controversy. After last year’s event was plagued with voter fraud, this year’s installment has found itself facing a new, even less expected issue: A bat may end up beating out every bird to take the 2021 title.
The Guardian reports that the long-tailed bat/pekapeka-tou-roa’s inclusion marks “the first time a New Zealand native land mammal has been included in the competition” in its 16-year history. A spokesperson from organizer Forest And Bird said the idea is to help raise awareness about the bat’s “profile as a critically endangered species” and one that’s been “rattling around for a while” as a way to help protect the country’s sole land-based mammals.
The long-tailed bat’s conservation status is listed as “in serious trouble” on its contestant page and it’s described by campaign manager Peter Willis as “now so rare we don’t know how many are left” because of “habitat loss and introduced predators.” It’s called “a party leader species, representing both species of bat in Aotearoa, the long-tailed bat and the short-tailed bat” and is apparently “as small as your thumb, the wingspan of your hand, and [weighing] the same as a $2 coin.”
Willis writes that the bat deserves its entry, even if it “may ruffle some feathers” by being included. “In New Zealand, we believe in the underbird,” he writes. “We believe in the little fly. We believe that where you come from doesn’t have to determine your future.”
Despite this, some commenters have pushed back against the decision, protesting in two examples from The Guardian’s article that “a mammal is hi-jacking the BIRD of the year competition” and that the long-tailed bat is “adorable [but] not a bird.” Not everyone is upset, though, because, as one person put it: “Who can be mad at a bat running for NZ bird of the year when it acts more like a bird than most of our actual birds?”
We agree with the latter sentiment.
Just look at these little guys. They’re great! They’re more than worthy to represent New Zealand’s population of winged creatures for 2021. If you agree (and are eligible to participate), know that voting is open until Sunday, October 31st—the night when all bats are at the height of their powers—and donations to national conservation efforts can be made at Forest And Bird’s website.
[via Boing Boing]
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