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Illustration of a waitoreke (by TheMorlo


The Waitoreke, also called the Kaureke, is an unknown aquatic monotreme similar to an otter or a platypus reported in the South Island of New Zealand. Described as about 10 pounds and 1.5 ft long, with brownish fur, white spots, short legs, webbed feet and a long beaver-like tail. The Waitoreke is particularly unusual, as no known mammals are native to New Zealand besides bats, seals and whales. According to Māori folklore, the Waitoreke were kept as pets before European times. The first written record of a waitoreke was in 1773, by Captain James Cook, who described them as beaver-like animals he saw on the shore. 

The only known report of any physical evidence was In 1868, when Prussian explorer Julius Von Haast obtained a waitoreke pelt. Von Haast also claimed to see small webbed footprints on the mud banks of the Ashburton River. In 1870, Walter Mandel, the son of Naturalist Gideon Mandel, reported an animal the Māori called a "Kaureke," which was a cat-sized animal with short legs and a bushy tail--unlike other reports which describe a flat tail. Strangely, it was said to lay eggs, suggesting them to be monotremes or egg-laying mammals. This animal was greatly valued by the Māori and were kept as pets. Mandel offered a reward for a kaureke specimen and sent a team of Māori hunters to capture one, but they returned unsuccessfully.

In 1880, a waitoreke was killed in the Canterbury district and was unfortunately eaten by local Māori fishermen before any studies were done. In the early 20th century, Lake Te Anau became a hotspot for reports, and people began to spot waitorekes throughout the lake. In 1939, some naturalists around the town of Waiau claimed to have spotted an unusual otter-like animal they couldn't identify, despite their familiarity with the area's wildlife. 

Few sightings occurred until 1968, when a waitoreke was observed leaving the Stevenburn Stream in the Southland District. The animal looked around as it rose from the surface, then motioned to three other waitorekes, which all clambered up the bank and disappeared into the undergrowth. In 1971, a hunter claimed to have seen a waitoreke playing in the Hollyford River by climbing up the bank and sliding down repeatedly. He claimed to have watched for about 15 minutes until he lost sight of the animal.

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