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Hapū grieves for kaitiaki turtle
Curator Vertabretes, Dr Colin Mickelly receives the turtle Photo image courtesy of Te Papa Tongarewa

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Ngāi Tahu is asking why it wasn’t informed or involved when a giant leatherback turtle washed up in its rohe.

The body of a 2.5 metre turtle was found on a farm near Akaroa on Banks Peninsula last week and sent by Department of Conservation rangers to the national museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

Matiu Payne from Lincoln University’s Te Whare Pūtahi says Ngāi Tahu consider the honu a kaitiaki.

He says stories passed down says its job was to protect the wāhi tapu and ancient places of learning in that area.

"It was never quite believed as a story that we had turtles around our seashore, and certainly as kids we used to think 'OK, that's an interesting story,' but only when you see the physical representation of our tīpuna, now deceased, those stories suddenly ring more true and it crates a deeper sense of grief and sadness that we didn't have the opportunity to grieve for our kaitiaki, for our tipuna," Mr Payne says.

The hapū wants the honu returned to the area it was found for burial.


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