A Tiktoker has issued an explanation about a video which shows him catching a seagull while eating McDonald's after it went viral on the platform and prompted widespread anger.
The clip was uploaded to TikTok by Taylor Mechen who filmed himself clutching the bird late at night in the New Zealand city of Dunedin.
Panning the camera away from his food while sitting on a bench, the seagull appears clasped firmly in his grip, squawking at Mr Mechen. He then throws it into the air where it joins a flock of fellow seagulls.
Posting two versions of the video on the platform, he has so far garnered a combined 30 million views.
And while some users found the encounter hilarious, others slammed him in the comments section.
"Poor thing, show respect to other creatures," one person wrote.
"That poor bird," another said.
The viral video also drew criticism from New Zealand's Department of Conservation who pleaded with people not to copy Mr Mechen's stunt.
"Tarapunga are protected under the Wildlife Act, meaning it is illegal to disturb, harass or kill them. Those who do so can face fines or imprisonment," the department's operations manager Annie Wallace told the Otago Daily Times.
Tarapunga is the Māori language name for the red-billed gull.
"It is stressful for the animal whenever someone catches and holds our native birds like this."
In a follow up video to explain how he managed to catch the gull, Mr Mechen said he was drunk when filming the video and that he was being "dive-bombed" by the flock of gulls.
He said when one went for his head, he put his hand up to cover his face and caught the seagull.
"I didn't mean to do it, I'm quite scared of birds so it was quite scary sitting there," he said.
Dr Bethany Hoye, a silver gull researcher from the University of Wollongong, told Yahoo News Australia the trend posed a serious risk to the safety of the birds.
“The beach towel method is particularly concerning because there’s a high risk of harming the bird,” she said.
“The person doing the trapping can’t see the bird and could knock the bird out or break a wing with their arms.”
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