Kiwi company's pūteketeke sculpture sales could boost conservation efforts

The Bird of the Century vote is over - but there's hope the worldwide attention it garnered will turn to action.  

US Late Night host John Oliver's focus on one Kiwi company could see a huge boost for conservation efforts. 

With much fanfare, the man behind the biggest bird election campaign of all time broke his silence.  

"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of myself and New Zealand's new Bird of the Century I want to thank everyone who voted," Oliver told his audience on Monday night. 

After his pitch for the pūteketeke to win Bird of the Century succeeded in a landslide, Oliver took a victory lap in the only way he knows how.  

"Tonight isn't just the pūteketeke's victory, it's your victory," he added. 

But it was a victory in more ways than one - by encouraging people in nearly 200 countries to vote. 

Forest and Bird told Newshub the donations came flying in.  

"It contributed to an additional $600,000 worth of donations, so people around the world and in New Zealand have put their money where their mouths are," Forest and Bird chief executive Nicola Toki said. 

Forest and Bird are hoping the boost doesn't end there.  

They have partnered with Metal Bird, a Kiwi sculpture company that's been celebrating the competition's winner for years. 

"Thirty percent of the sale of that bird [goes] directly to Forest and Bird to help with their activities," Metal Bird creator Phil Walters said.  

But this year's design has a special twist.

"Me riding its back like one of its babies!" Oliver exclaimed.  

And that's seen sales go through the roof. 

It's hoped the statue's sales could improve conservation efforts.
It's hoped the statue's sales could improve conservation efforts. Photo credit: Newshub

"We sat there, it went to air, we're looking at 15 people on our website in the states, then there's 50, then there's 200, then there's 600," Walters said. 

"We're sitting there with our fingers crossed, hoping the whole site is going to stay together."  

Walters believes it's a huge boost for conservation efforts. 

"It's almost a bottomless pit, how much help birds need both locally and globally," Walters said. 

Oliver was visibly leading by example in front of his audience on Monday night. 

"If you want one, with or without me on it, you can order a sculpture at this website right here. We've actually got one for everybody in our audience," Oliver said.  

So as the spotlight turns away from our birds, Forest and Bird are in need of a well-deserved rest. 

"Our team could do with a cup of tea and a lie-down," Toki admitted. 

Toki and the team are crossing their fingers our native birds aren't forgotten - and hoping the sales will help foot the bill for bird conservation.

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