John Oliver’s mullet-vomiting campaign delays vote in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Comedian John Oliver has succeeded in his campaign to get what he described as an exotic bird that vomits with colorful mullets to win New Zealand’s Bird of the Century contest.

He managed to hit the famous national bird, the kiwi.

The conservation group Forest and Bird announced Wednesday that Oliver’s favorite waterfowl, the pūteketeke, won after Oliver did his best with a humorous campaign for the bird on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight.” The North Island brown kiwi came in second place.

New Zealand canvassers were so overwhelmed by Oliver’s foreign interference that they had to postpone naming the winning bird for two days.

This annual event, often called Bird of the Year, is held to raise awareness about the plight of the country’s native birds, some of which are endangered. This year, the competition was named “Bird of the Century” to mark the 100th anniversary of the group’s founding.

Oliver discovered a loophole in the rules, which allowed anyone with a valid email address to cast a ballot.

Oliver had a billboard for “The Lord of the Wings” in the New Zealand capital, Wellington. He also placed billboards in Paris, Tokyo, London and Mumbai, India. He had a plane with a banner flying over Ipanema Beach in Brazil. He dressed up as an oversized bird on Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show.”

“Ultimately, this is the essence of democracy,” Oliver said on his show. “America interferes in foreign elections”

Forest & Bird did not immediately release the final vote count on Wednesday, but said the group received more than 350,000 verified votes, more than six times the previous record of 56,700 votes in 2021.

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They said the “high-powered” Oliver campaign temporarily disabled their vote verification system.

“It was absolutely crazy, in the best way possible,” CEO Nicola Tocchi told The Associated Press before the winner was announced.

New Zealand is unusual in that birds evolved to become the dominant animals before humans arrived.

“If you think about New Zealand’s wildlife, we don’t have lions, tigers and bears,” Toki said. She added that although nearly nine out of ten New Zealanders now live in towns or cities, many retain a deep love of nature.

“We have this intangible, very strong connection to our wildlife and our birds,” Toki said.

The contest has weathered previous controversy. In 2020, election auditors discovered about 1,500 fraudulent votes for the little spotted kiwi. Two years ago, a bat won the competition, which was allowed because it was considered part of the bird family by indigenous Maori.

This year, organizers said they removed more fraudulent votes, including 40,000 votes cast by one person for the eastern Rockhopper penguin.

When the contest started in 2005, they received a total of 865 votes, which they considered a great success, Toki said. She said the previous record number of votes was broken within two hours of Oliver launching his campaign.

Oliver contacted the group earlier this year and asked if he could advocate for a bird, Tuckey said. They asked him to move on, not knowing what was coming.

“I was crying with laughter,” Toki said when she saw Oliver’s clip.

Oliver described how the potikitiki, which numbers fewer than 1,000 in New Zealand and is also known as the Australian crested crow, eats its own feathers before vomiting them back up.

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“They do a mating dance where they each hold a clump of wet grass and their chests bump against each other before they stand up unsure of what to do next,” Oliver said on his show, adding that he had never known anything like this in his life. .

Some in New Zealand opposed Oliver’s campaign. One group put up billboards reading: “Dear John, don’t disrupt the hierarchy”, while others urged people to vote for Kiwis. Oliver responded by saying that the kiwi looked like “a mouse with a toothpick.”

“For the record, all your birds are amazing, and it would be an honor to lose to any of them when the results are announced on Wednesday,” Oliver said on his show. “The reason it’s easy for me to say that is because we’re not going to lose, right? We’re going to win, and we’re going to win by a big margin.”

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