The pekapeka long-tailed bat was just declared the winner of the New Zealand Bird of the Year awards. The bat, with one of the cutest names around (pekapeka, everybody?) and an adorable face to boot, won the competition by over 3000 votes.
The win was not without some controversy though. A bat winning a competition for bird of the year seems somewhat controversial. “We certainly ruffled some feathers,” joked Laura Keown, the communications advisor at Forest & Bird, the conservation group who runs the contest. People took to Twitter in their droves to comment on the outright winner of the contest. G’Quan commented: ‘Since they awarded a BAT, this is the main candidate to be voted “Bird of the Year” in 2022.’
Since they awarded a BAT, this is the main candidate to be voted "Bird of the Year" in 2022: pic.twitter.com/QLOBBo7IPH— G'Quan (@GkuanGonzalo) November 2, 2021
Another Twitter user by the name RabbidHaggis responded with a photo of himself suggesting that he was ‘in training for 2030’.
A Scotsman here already in training for 2030. I’ve got the bird bit covered. Any kiwi lasses want to help me with the nationality bit? 😉 pic.twitter.com/CLHJsvB13q— RabbidHaggis (@rabbidhaggis) November 1, 2021
So how did a bat win a bird competition?
Funny antics aside, there was a good reason that the bat was entered into this year’s competition. The bat is one of only 3 mammals native to New Zealand (the other 2 are also bats, 1 of which is believed to be extinct). The inclusion of the bat this year was hoped to highlight the issues that face the bats. On the website for Bird of the Year, it was explained:
“These flying furballs are threatened by the same problems as our native birds – predators, habitat loss, and climate change. The more we do to protect them, the more it helps their feathered friends and vice versa.”
The bat has certainly got people talking, which was the hope. Laura Keown said:
“The scandals make it funny and get people laughing,” she added, “and if we can get people laughing and learning about native species, then I think we’ve really achieved what Bird of the Year is all about.”
There was a record 58,550 voted in the 2021 Bird of the Year contest, with last year’s winner, the kākāpō coming a not-so-close second!