Fraudulent votes uncovered in Hen of the Yr contest

The stakes may not be as high as the U.S. presidential election, but a feathered contest in New Zealand appears to have actual evidence of fraud. The contest for the nation’s Bird of the Year award attracted more than 1,500 fraudulent votes for the Little Spotted Kiwi (also known as kiwi pukupuku), according to the Forest & Bird agency.

The illegitimate votes briefly pushed the kiwi to the top of the preferred bird leaderboard, but the votes have since been removed from the competition, the agency said.

“It’s lucky we spotted this little kiwi trying to sneak in an extra 1,500 votes under the cover of darkness,” says Laura Keown, spokesperson for Bird of the Year, in a statement. 

“But they’ll have to play by the rules like all of the other birds to win the competition.”

The votes came in during the wee hours of Monday morning in New Zealand and were discovered in the afternoon by the contest’s official scrutineers at Dragonfly Data Science. They were all traced back to the same IP address in Auckland, the nation’s most populous city.

“All of our birds deserve a fighting chance, especially this little manu, our smallest kiwi, which is so threatened by predators that it is extinct on mainland New Zealand outside of predator-free sanctuaries,” says Keown. 

Anyone can vote

New Zealand has been holding Bird of the Year contests since 2005. It was established to raise interest in the country’s native birds and in hopes of furthering protections for imperiled species. Previous winners include Yellow-eyed Penguin, Kea, and Bar-tailed Godwit.

You don’t have to live in New Zealand to vote. Participants can select up to five species to vote for, and only one set of votes is allowed per email address. Voting closes at 5 p.m. New Zealand time on Sunday, November 15 (which is late on Saturday here in North America).

“If you really love the kiwi pukupuku, get out and campaign for them in Bird of the Year,” says Keown. “We don’t want to see any more cheating.”

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