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(BNN) — In a shock decision, Forest & Bird has allowed a species that may or may not exist to enter Aotearoa’s most prestigious avian election.

Forest & Bird announced the appeal from the South Island Kōkako Charitable Trust in a Tweet last month.

The South Island kōkako, or kōkā, closely resembles its North Island cousins, with the main difference being that it has orange wattles instead of blue. The North Island kōkako won Bird of the Year in 2016 and is also a contender is this year’s showdown.

The last confirmed sighting of “the grey ghost” was in 1967, but some believers think the South Island kōkako is still out there. The species was declared extinct by the Department of Conservation in 2008, but its status was changed to “data deficient” in 2013 after some bloke reckoned he saw the sneaky fulla near Reefton on the West Coast.

The South Island Kōkako Charitable Trust have been asking the public to report any sightings of the bird, even going so far as to offer a $10,000 reward.

The decision to include a possibly extinct species has angered some extant (still living) participants, who claim it is a “slippery slope”.

“If we let any old data deficient bird in, what’s next? We let extinct ones in too? Moa? The Haast’s eagle? I mean, next you’ll be telling me dinosaurs can enter,” said one participant who asked not to be named.

But others have suggested that this criticism is extinct-ist as it shows prejudice against extinct birds.

“Extinct birds can tell us a lot about the conservation of living birds” said takahē, which was ironically once thought to be extinct itself.

Others have pointed out that some definitely living species (especially sea and shorebirds) routinely miss out, and that this may shift focus to Aotearoa’s long list of extinct birds—many of which were frickin’ YUGE—instead of highlighting the brilliant living birds we need to conserve.

But if the grey ghost still haunts the forested valleys of the South Island, it certainly deserves a place in Bird of the Year. Who knows, maybe the publicity will finally lead to a damn photo of the bloody bird?

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