In a controversial decision that raised eyebrows, a bat was named New Zealand’s bird-of-the year.
A long-tailed bat was able to win the online title.
The contest organizers had chosen to include the bat as one of few native mammals that live on the ground in order to highlight its status as a critically endangered species.
However, some people were unhappy with the win. One commenter said that the country was “batty”.
Twitter users outraged by fowl cried foul, calling it “total farce”, “stolen elections”, and other colorful terms that are not printed.
Social media users saw it as a crucial victory for bats’ public relations after an extremely difficult two-year period.
Forest and Bird, an environmental group, organizes this competition each year. They said it was not to restore the bat’s image after the coronavirus pandemic.
Laura Keown, spokesperson, stated in a statement, “A vote for bats also means a vote to preserve their habitats, predator control and climate action.”
We are very proud of the pekapeka bat with long tails who won. #BirdoftheYear20212021 🦇🏆
Although they’re our sole endemic land mammal species, the majority of people don’t know about them, making their achievement even more impressive. pic.twitter.com/dZEMNn7t5H
— Forest & Bird (@Forest_and_Bird) October 31, 2021
Bird of the Year is a contest that aims to increase awareness about New Zealand’s wildlife and threatened species.
Forest and Bird decided, in apparent disregard of the rules of scientific taxonomy to include a terrestrial mammal this year for the first-time. They claimed they were facing similar problems as birds.
Long-tailed bats, commonly known as pekapeka–tou-roa, are smaller than thumbs. They beat flightless parrots to take the title.
A total of 56,700 votes were cast, including 7,000 casting their vote for the bat and just 4,000 voting for the kakapo. This contest won its first year.
It is not the first time that the contest has been controversial.
Fears of fraud were heightened by the discovery that hundreds of votes came from Russia in 2019.
Later, organizers discovered that the hackers were not intent on manipulating votes but rather Russian bird-lovers.
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