Have teeth been extracted?

Guru peers into the whale’s mouth

By Alan Tristram

Kāpiti Councillor K Gurunathan (Guru) says there are rumours among Maori that teeth taken from the whale beached at Paraparaumu recently have ‘disappeared.’

 And he says he wants the Department of Conservation, as the relevant authority, to reveal exactly where all the teeth have gone.

Cr Gurunathan says rumours have been circulating amongst sections of the local iwi that some of the valuable teeth of the 15-tonne sperm whale, which beached at Paraparaumu Beach on January 16, have ‘gone missing.’


He says:” Local iwi were involved in the removal of the jaws and teeth of the whale.

“Iwi had named the whale Te Uruhi. I have been informed the iwi was scheduled to have a meeting today at the marae in Waikanae to discuss the matter. The public would be concerned if the teeth had indeed gone missing under the watch of the Department of Conservation.

“Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, DOC is responsible for issuing permits for the removal of any materials from such mammals. Such removal can be for scientific and cultural reasons.

“Section 8 of the Act requires the maintenance of a national registry of permits. The public would be surprised if DOC is unable to inform concerned iwi members and the public exactly who has what and the conditions attached to such possession. There should, therefore, be no confusion about the whereabouts of Te Uruhi’s teeth.”

On February 15, Cr Gurunathan wrote to DOC requesting information on its statutory responsibilities under this Act. In response, DOC area manager, Mr Rob Stone, stated a reply would be give within 20 working days.

He says that, given rumours that some of Te Uruhi’s teeth have gone missing, there is now some urgency to DOC’s response.

DOC’s Marine Mammals Action Plan 2005 – 2010 states one of its key objectives to be the effective management of permits under the Act and its regulations. Under its Treaty obligations, this Plan also focuses on the need to establish clear policies and guidelines around the use and allocation of marine mammal materials.

Te Papa Atawhai Kapiti-Wellington

DoC regulations say that anyone with authority ‘to hold a sperm whale jaw bone as a personal taonga’ must obey these conditions:

1.      Note that every person holding whale bone taonga requires an authority to do so from Te Papa Atawhai.

2.      This authority is not transferable and applies only to that person, iwi or group named hereon.

3.      The selling of whale bone taonga for commercial gain is not supported by Te Papa Atawhai or iwi. A commercial carver may only charge for his/her time spent in working whale

bone taonga.