Kyeburn resident finds first moa footprints in the South Island

Kyeburn resident Michael Johnston was going about his day back in March taking his dogs down to the river when he saw what looked like moa footprints.

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The fossil, believed to be more than 1 million years old was found in the Kyeburn River. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's a ripper spot during the summer, I come down here to take my dogs for a swim, it's away from the majority of the local people so it's pretty good.

"It was just another hot day, we brought the dogs down and they were playing around so we walked into the water and found this random shelf with these footprints on it."

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The crisp underwater imprints appeared after floodwaters scoured away obscuring soil, silt and rocks.

Mr Johnston took photos of the footprints and sent them on Facebook to Otago Museum via messenger.  

"Then they asked for my number and Kane [from Otago Musuem] gave me a call and within three days he was in central Otago to come and have a look."

"I was just going for a casual swim, so it's escalated a bit."

Now, a couple of months after the discovery the footprints are going to be extracted and transported to Otago Museum.

Assistant curator at the natural science at Otago Museum Kane Fleury confirmed to Mr Johnston that they were in fact moa footprints.

"Today we are on the Kyeburn river and we’ve set up a temporary diversion of the river around the swimming hole and we’re currently pumping that swimming hole out as there are a set of moa footprints.”

After Mr Johnston contacted Mr Fluery he came out to take a look.

"I came out with my snorkel and mask and my wetsuit and dove on into the swimming hole and had a look at the prints under the water and they were just mind blowing, way better then the photos indicated and a super super special find.

"It’s really awesome that Michael not only noted that he’d seen something special in the water, but he actually came and contacted the right people to do something about it, because this is the only find of its kind in the South Island.

"It's likely these prints have been there for a million years, maybe a bit longer."