Eight birds have been shot dead at Auckland's gannet colony in Muriwai, and the police want help finding who's responsible.
The dead gannets, or tākapu, were found on March 8 just after Auckland's short level 3 COVID-19 lockdown.
"Testing and x-rays indicate that the tākapu were shot dead with pellets, likely from an air rifle, some multiple times," said Stephen Bell, Auckland Council park ranger.
Police, Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation (DoC) are calling for anyone with information to get in touch.
"It is incredibly sad to see such an ignorant, selfish and cowardly act, and at a time when the tākapu colony is at its busiest with thousands of nesting birds who make Muriwai their home between August and March every year to raise their chicks," said Bell.
"Volunteers from within the community have spent countless hours protecting the birds from introduced predators and we never would have seen the need to protect them from people."
Tākapu are a native protected species. Whoever shot them could face two years in prison or a $100,000 fine.
"We are saddened to see such a disregard for this protected species," said DoC Tāmaki Makaurau acting operations manager Rebecca Rush.
"The Muriwai colony is the most visited and accessible tākapu colony in the country, and it really is a privilege to observe this unique species on our regional parkland and in such a spectacular setting on Auckland's wild west coast," added Councillor Alf Filipaina, chair of the parks, arts, community and events committee.
"I strongly encourage any members of the public who might have some information about the killing of these tākapu to come forward."
In 2019, DoC said it was struggling to stop people illegally flying drones over Muriwai Beach, where more than 1000 gannets like to nest over the spring and summer months.
Anyone with information should call police on 105, quoting file 210324/5059; or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.