New Zealand To Return 100+ Fiji Cultural Items Seized At Border

Despite cultural signficance, as product of endangered species Tabua (sperm whale teeth) are prohibited items

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 9, 2017) – New Zealand's Department of Conservation will repatriate to Fiji more than 100 cultural items from the country which have been seized over the past 15 years.

The items, all tabua- the polished tooth of a sperm whale - are highly regarded cultural gifts in Fiji, often passed down through generations.

But laws preventing the trade in endangered species mean that more than 100 tabua have been seized at New Zealand's border, and they are being stored by the department.

DOC's National Compliance Manager, Darryl Lew, said more than 90 per cent of the endangered specimens forfeited to the crown are destroyed, but not the tabua collection.

"I'm very pleased to say we have an agreement between both management authorities of Fiji and New Zealand that we're in principal going to be repatriating the Tabua later this year," said Mr Lew.

"The Department of Conservation would like to hope that it's some reasonable formal event and a cultural exchange to hand over the tabua."

Radio New Zealand International
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