Critically Endangered takahe released onto Auckland island
One of New Zealand's rarest native birds, the takahē, has been released on Motutapu Island in the heart of Auckland.
There are only some 260 takahē alive today. Photo credit DOC
November 2012. There are only 260 takahē in the world and nine were released on Motutapu Island. Motutapu is a pest free island half an hour by ferry from downtown Auckland. Takahē were once widespread throughout New Zealand but have been brought to the brink of extinction by predators, particularly stoats, and the destruction of their habitat. The release is a major milestone in work DOC is doing in partnership with Mitre 10, aimed at securing the survival of this critically endangered native bird.
takahē brought from Te Anau
The takahē were transported almost the length of the country. Their journey began at the Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit near Te Anau. The birds were loaded into transportation boxes and driven to Queenstown by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers who run the Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue programme.
Volunteers release takahe on Motutapu Island
At Queenstown Airport the takahē joined passengers on board a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, as part of the airline's sponsorship arrangement with DOC which includes providing air transport for the department's translocation programmes. From Auckland Airport the nine takahē travelled by road to Devonport and then by DOC boat to Motutapu. They were released into native forest planted by volunteers from the Motutapu Restoration Trust.
Thought extinct until 1948
Takahē were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in the Fiordland National Park 64 years ago. Dr Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the flightless bird, deep in the Murchison Mountains, on 20 November 1948. The work to save takahē has involved gathering 'excess' eggs from the Murchison Mountains and hatching them at the Burwood Bush unit. Chicks reared at the unit were then released onto pest free islands where they have been safe from stoats. This has led to an increase in takahē numbers.
Pest free islands
Pest free islands where takahē have been released - Kapiti, Mana, Maud and Tiritiri Matangi - are now running out of room for takahē. A new site, free of predators and with a suitable habitat, is needed to enable the takahē population to continue growing. Motutapu fits the bill perfectly. It and neighbouring Rangitoto - the two islands are joined by a short causeway - were declared pest free on August 27 last year. Four takahē were released on Motutapu to mark the pest free declaration.
Motutapu's grass and native forest provide a good home for takahē and the island is big enough to hold up to 20 breeding pair of takahē. This will create the largest takahē population outside Fiordland, a crucial step in securing the future of this critically endangered bird.
Mitre 10 and DOC have worked together to save takahē since 2005. Mitre 10 has provided more than half a million dollars for takahē conservation work in this period. This year DOC and Mitre 10 signed a new partnership agreement that runs until 2015 and will see Mitre 10 more than double its financial contribution to the Takahē Recovery Programme. Mitre 10 is running activities in its 100-store network over the next few months highlighting the takahē's critically endangered status. They will also give people an opportunity to lend a hand to raise money to save takahē.
Mitre 10 has been working in partnership with DOC to save takahē since 2005, providing more than half a million dollars for this work to date.