Living Moa News

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 6th, 2008


The little blue moa.

The Thylacine of the Avian world is in the news again.

Australian cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy recently discussed the latest new findings for Moas with the Hawke’s Bay Today. One of the good points about Gilroy is that he does serve as a lightning rod for unusual animal accounts in the region sometimes, and likewise has the ear of the media. The press reports tend to lower the ridicule curtain and more reports and sightings, historical and recent ones, then come forth.

Most of the cryptozoological attention to the survival of the Moas has been directed to the reports, sightings, and photographs from New Zealand, as you can see here, here, and here.

Australia’s Gilroy will be journeying to New Zealand’s remote Urewera ranges – home of the Tuhoe, known as the “Children of the Mist” because of the area’s misty forests – to search for the cryptid Moa.

The discovery of the fossil Moa is perhaps well-known. William Colenso (1811–99) was the first to note them. During his first years (1834-1838) at the Bay of Islands, Colenso made several significant missionary journeys. In 1838, he accompanied the Rev. W. Williams on a visit to the Bay of Plenty and East Coast districts. During this journey he first heard from the Maoris of the moa, bones of which he was later able to examine. He wrote an important paper, dated May 1, 1842, for the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, which was the first report of an observer on the spot pointing out the nature of the discovery.

A few years later Sir Richard Owen (below) would receive fossil specimens, ponder what they were for four years, and then describe zoologically the first moa.

owen moa

Today, while reports of living Moas may be hard to believe, sightings of the smaller variety do occur, and Gilroy’s news is worthy of a good read. Caution, of course, must be stated, as escaped emus from Australia, loose in New Zealand, may be confusing the current picture of what cryptids are around and what escaped animals may be thereabouts.

Australian emu

The Australian emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

Nevertheless, Gilroy’s expedition in pursuit of this information will be intriguing to learn more about. Best of luck to these mates in Oz.

As many as a dozen moa could be fossicking in remote bush in northernmost Hawke’s Bay, according to Australian “hidden animal” hunters.

Next month they plan to resume the search – confident it’s only a matter of time before a colony is found.

The hopes are held by New South Wales cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy, who says hard-track evidence he and wife Heather found in the Urewera Ranges in November is a sign of the existence of the presumed-extinct Anomalopteryx didiformis, otherwise known as the little scrub moa.

The evidence of a track comes six years after the couple found about 35 ground prints they believe to have come from a colony of up to 12 of the moa.

Speaking from the couple’s Australasian Cryptozoological Research Centre in Katoomba, Mr Gilroy told Hawke’s Bay Today the evidence is enough to make them return at the end of February to search for the one piece of evidence he’s wanted for as much as 50 years to prove moa are still alive.

The latest find includes a track and what appeared to have been a recently-used nest in big, dead kauri. Moa had possibly nested there, and moa may have come out at night to move across a small isolated gully and onto a ridge in the area. Mr Gilroy has plaster casts of the tracks.

“The location is in pretty remote country, we need to have more time to investigate, and if I can get something on film, that would be tremendous.”

He’s not yet identifying the site, and, conceding only that the couple have entered the Ureweras from the Hawke’s Bay side, says he doesn’t want a lot of noise in the hunt for the species, which stood up to 1.3 m.

Previous revelations of hidden-animal kind had sparked invasions of media with cameras, bright lights and helicopters, and gleeful claims that it was all for nothing after a month of racket, which was hardly likely to encourage the big birds to make their long-awaited debut in public.

“I’ve devoted my whole life to the research of these creatures,” said 64-year-old Mr Gilroy.

“And the only way to find them is to go into the environment, just one, two or three people, and wait quietly.”

“You’ve got to be silent in the bush if you’re going to see anything,” he said.

“New Zealand is my favourite place, there is some pretty inaccessible terrain.”

He said it was possible that animal life could survive in such circumstances for “hundreds of years” without being seen by human beings.

Wairoa Land Search and Rescue and Urewera veteran Dave Withers says, however, that with large teams of volunteers covering huge areas of the forest park in searches and training each year he would have heard if some sign of the assumed-extinct birds had been found.

“I’ve never heard of them,” he said.

“With the amount of ground our guys cover, 40 to 60 people, they spread out and cover the ground – surely if they were about in this area I would have heard.”

He said there was “the odd wallaby” in the park, and larger-than-average feral cats, but he was not aware of reports of mystery tracks.

Anomalopteryx didiformis was a flightless bird species known colloquially as the Lesser or Bush Moa. It weighed 30kg and inhabited much of the North Island and small sections of the South Island.

The most complete remains, a partially articulated skeleton with substantial mummified tissue discovered in the South Island in 1980, are now in the Southland Museum.

Cryptozoology is the study of or search for animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological catalogues.

The focus is on finding living examples of animals taxonomically identified through fossil records, but which are believed to be extinct, and animals that fall outside of taxonomic records due to a lack of evidence, apart from myths, legends, or unconfirmed sightings. ~ by Doug Laing, “Birdman says moa surviving in the Bay,”
Hawke’s Bay Today, January 5, 2008.

blue moa small

(Thanks to Craig Woolheater for passing this along to me for my comments while I was in New York City, in my own search for more on the Abominable Snowmen.)

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Living Moa News”

  1. stormwalkernz1 responds:

    As a resident Cryptozoologist in New Zealand, in Hawkes Bay I find Mr Gilroy’s claims a little hard to swallow.

    Investigation through my sources have told me as Loren states there are a lot of emus in the area and perhaps the footprints and nests found could be a case of mistaken identity.

    The area in which Mr Gilroy intends to search in the Ranges is extensively used by the Department of conservation as a training area, logging area, and used for other environmental activities.

    If there were any moa in the area something would have definitely been reported before now.

    With emu being resident in the area nothing short of an absolutely clear photo, unblurred would add credence to Mr Gilroy’s claim.

    I certainly hope this is not another wild moa chase.

    And wish Mr Gilroy all the luck you can get.

  2. Bob Michaels responds:

    It would be the find of this young century, if the Moa still exists. I hope it turns out to be true.

  3. kittenz responds:

    I hope that living moas will be found, but if it is known that there are emus living free in the area, then any tracks or other evidence probably come from them.

  4. Byron responds:

    Having lived in New Zealand for many years, I can say that there is little chance one of these animals could go on existing unnoticed. The forests were largely decimated by the Maori and the Europeans and the Moa were hunted to extinction first by the Maoriori and then the Maori. One of the reasons this happened is that the moa tend to follow the same track. So much so in fact, that the original settlers used the track of larger species of moa to build the original roads, some of which are still in existence today. There is the occasional moa claim followed by the hazy photograph, but face it, if the bird still existed, you could simply do what the maori did and follow its trail untill you found it. This is such a well known phenomena that many Kiwi’s simply dismiss moa claims with a chuckle, saying as one man told me, “you can take a picture but can’t follow a trail?” One thing I will concede to this claim is that the remaining rain forested areas of New Zealand are lush. I would spend days tramping through bush I couldn’t see more than a foot or two into. If it is a smaller species of Moa, are people sure they aren’t mistaking the Pukeko or maybe even the occasional kiwi bird who decided to hunt during the day?

  5. things-in-the-woods responds:

    equally of course, moas could be miss identified as emus…

  6. things-in-the-woods responds:

    or even misidentified

  7. dogu4 responds:

    I’m no ornithologist, but I have gone down to the Long Gray Cloud on three occasions and hiked around a bit, mostly in the Abel Tasman. Never saw a moa but the second link with the image of a reddish colored flightless bird sure looks like the critter that stole my last bar of soap and my companion’s bra and panties which I tried to recover by crawling through a warren of tunnels in some particularly nasty thorny shrubbery…and there found, like the den of the lions of Tsavo, a hoard of all kinds of stuff.

    The culprit was the well known Weka. They are not cryptids but do have some rather bizarre tastes in dry goods and notions. They are incorrigible sneak thieves and despite the annoyance, are a wonderfully sly creature to watch as they wander around looking for the moment you aren’t, and off they go, like some Dickensian pocket-thief.

    I’m guessing the Keas are fencing it.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    I agree with BOB MICHAELS. Also with KITTENZ. Probably emus, but one CAN hope.

  9. DWA responds:

    This is the most important part of the passage:


    “And the only way to find them is to go into the environment, just one, two or three people, and wait quietly.”

    “You’ve got to be silent in the bush if you’re going to see anything,” he said.

    “New Zealand is my favourite place, there is some pretty inaccessible terrain.”


    1. You don’t often hear about cryptos who absolutely understand the only way – other than dumb blind luck – to get conclusive evidence.

    2. Just from my experience in the country, surviving moa in NZ, particularly of the smallest species, might be more likely than – OK, at least as likely as – any other cryptid. After all, moa lived all over NZ. And if you’ve been there, “all over” is pretty durn big. As I like to say to people, NZ has the size of Japan and the population of greater metropolitan Washington, DC.

  10. DWA responds:

    I would say this to Mr. Gilroy:

    The North Island is the best place to search? How about the South Island (Westland and Fiordland in particular)?

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