One of our most critically endangered animals has been spotted in a small town in the South Island - a sight that has not been seen in decades.
The long-tail bat, or pekapeka, has been discovered again in Franz Josef, on the West Coast, after staff at a local wilderness tour business collected sound recordings of the mammal.
The highly endangered bats were recorded in forested areas around the Okarito Lagoon and in the Waitangitahuna and Whataroa river valleys last summer and have been confirmed by Department of Conservation officials.
Conservation Minister Kiri Allan said the find was proof that the Government's Jobs for Nature and predator-free programmes were working.
"This is a really exciting find and is a tribute to Franz Josef Wilderness Tours who - despite being hard hit by the downturn in tourism because of Covid - embraced new Job for Nature work opportunities."
She said DoC's predator control work will have helped to protect the bats and with the new programmes continuing, would help secure the future of the pekapeka.
Speaking about their rare find, Franz Josef Wilderness Tour owner Dale Burrows also described the excitement his team has felt since.
"It's been a real buzz to discover the long-tailed bats right in our backyard and we're looking forward to being involved in further work to find out more about the population and protect them."