A production company hired to shoot a music video by Taylor Swift has been accused of endangering a species of rare birds in New Zealand.
Swift shot a video at Bethells Beach near Auckland on Monday. The beach is home to New Zealand dotterels, a once common bird species, of which there are only about 1,700 remaining.
BBC News reports that a crew working for Cherokee Films, the company in question, was given permission by the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development to drive two vehicles on Bethells Beach, where New Zealand dotterels live and breed.
According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation, dotterels generally hide their eggs in the sand among shells and driftwood. “Because they are so hard to spot, nests are sometimes crushed by people, vehicles, horses or stock,” the site notes.
A limit of two vehicles are allowed on the beach at a time. Restrictions also stipulate each vehicle must have a guide walking in front to ensure no birds are in danger of being crushed.
Witnesses reported seeing as many as a dozen vehicles on the beach during Swift’s video shoot.
Sandra Coney, Chair of the Waitakere Rangers, told Radio New Zealand on Thursday that a vehicle restriction is in place to protect the birds and their nests.
“There are only two breeding pairs – only four birds – that have been there about 10 years, and they usually fledge only one or two chicks a year. There are only 1700 dotterels left in New Zealand,” Coney said.
According to the UK Independent, Cherokee Films accepted full responsibility for what happened, but claimed to have followed protocol to protect the birds.
“As the local film production company… we accept responsibility and apologize for this situation,” a rep for the company said.
Cherokee Films also absolved Swift of any wrongdoing, saying, “Taylor Swift and her management team were in no way at fault and did not do anything that violated permits or ordinances.”
Cherokee Films claimed no dotterels were harmed during filming, which “occurred outside of the Dotterel breeding area.”
The company also announced it would be making a donation to the dotterel breeding program.
Reps for Taylor Swift have not yet commented on the controversy.