Moa footprints found in Central Otago

Moa footprints have been discovered in the Kyeburn river bed in Maniototo (Central Otago). They are thought to be millions of years old.

Kyeburn marked, near Ranfurly and Waipiata

Kyeburn is an area with the river flowing through it. When travelling inland coming out of the Pigroute you cross the Kyeburn River just after the turnoff south to Middlemarch.

Video of the footprints:

Ian Griffin is Director of Otago Museum.

ODT: Moa footprints found in river

Ranfurly man Michael Johnston ended up making a discovery of international significance, putting the Maniototo into the record books by finding a series of fossilised moa footprints millions of years old.

The footprints were the first moa prints to be found in the South Island and a “glimpse into the past before the ice age”, Prof Ewan Fordyce, of the University of Otago’s department of geology, said.

The imprints were found in the bed of the Kyeburn River, about 15km from Ranfurly, and their discovery was thanks to “an amazing coincidence of circumstances”, Dr Mike Dickison, a moa expert, said.

“I’m amazed at the luck of finding them – catching it in this very brief window between being exposed and being scoured out, and then that somebody happened to be fossicking around and went for a swim and noticed them.

“If any one of those things hadn’t happened, we would never have known they were there, and it makes you wonder how many other moa prints are buried or destroyed, or no-one knows they’re there.”

The imprints were thought to have been exposed by significant flooding in the Maniototo late last year, and it was likely they would not have survived another flood event, Otago Museum natural science assistant curator Kane Fleury said.

Seven clear footprints were found, each about 30cm by 30cm, and an action, preservation and excavation plan for the footprints was immediately prepared.

Dr Dickison said it was likely the moa would be a new species from a branch of the “moa family tree” from millions of years ago, and was most likely a medium-sized moa, which could be similar to the upland moa.

More from Stuff:  Tractor driver finds South Island’s first moa footprints in Otago river

I’m surprised this is the first fossilised moa footprints found in the South Island. There have been plenty of moa bones and remains found. From The Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Fossils

The founder of Canterbury Museum, Julius Haast, collected many moa bones and published papers on his discoveries. Most of these early finds came from dunes, swamps, Māori middens (rubbish heaps) and caves. In Central Otago, caves containing mummified moa with preserved soft tissue were found.

The footprints will add to the moa record.

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  1. Blazer

     /  10th May 2019

    does Johnstone own a motel or pub…nearby!

    • Ray

       /  10th May 2019

      He is a tractor driver Blaze, one of the great unwashed proletariat who you claim to support.
      Good on him doing the right thing but a mention in the news story that serious money could be made by selling on the black market might have lead to negative outcomes next time.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  10th May 2019

        I wonder how one would find such a market and a buyer.

        Things like this may well have little monetary value but immeasurable historic value. Given the set of circumstances that lead to the mummification of such things, it’s not surprising that they are rare.

        A young woman brought some Egyptian artefacts to the Antiques Roadshow, and they were identified as some of the things that had vanished from the British Museum during the War. Her grandfather had worked there (I think; there was some family connection, but I forget what) She was very iffy about returning them, although they were obviously stolen, and it sounded as if she wouldn’t. I couldn’t NOT have. I might kick myself for taking them to AR and finding out, but all my pleasure in them would be gone.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  10th May 2019

    It would be all but impossible to remove the moa prints, I think, unless you knew exactly what you were doing.

    • Gezza

       /  10th May 2019

      One TVNZ’s Inews at 6 they said they have removed 6 of the 7 prints – the 7th is not removable. They cut them out as slabs & need to preserve them so they don’t dry out & crack.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  10th May 2019

        3 showed them draining the site and talking about them, how important etc. The finder must have a good eye, many people wouldn’t have recognised them for what they were.

        I don’t remember the drying out and cracking. That seems odd if they’re fossilised, but perhaps it makes a difference if it’s mud that has become petrified – which this must be.

        Do you remember the time when moa footprints were found, I think by a lake….great excitement. as these were fresh ones. Then a man confessed that he had a cast of a moa foot and had made the footprints with that. Nobody had noticed that the ‘moa’ had two right feet.

        The human footprints in Severn are nothing like as old as the moa’s, but it’s amazing to see the footprints made by a family ? thousand years ago.. 7 ?


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