Takahe – back from the brink | Our Changing World | Radio New Zealand

A few days ago I came across a FaceBook post by Radio NZ about the growing numbers of takahē [one of NZ’s rare flightless birds threatened by extinction] and was so intrigued by it I’ve gathered together some information, and included a link to their article below.

Takahē were rediscovered above the bush line amongst the snow tussock and sub alpine plants of Fiordland’s Muchison Mountains in 1948 by Dr. Orbell , who as it turned out was a neighbour of my grandparents.

Fiordland, Muchison mountains from Lake Te Anau. Photo by Southern Light
Looking southwards to the Muchison Mountains from Lake Te Anau. Photo by Southern Light. Takahē live above the bushline among snow tussock and sub alpine plants/scrubs

And so from a very early age some years after his significant achievement I was aware of his fame, but too young to recall meeting him apart from some hazy memories of him waving from a top-floor window.

Days like this are all the more magical in Fiordland because the norm is rain~ this photo by Southern Light is of a small lake to the north of the Muchison mountains

Once thought to be extinct their re-discovery was followed by decades of conservation effort, yet even today they remain on the ever growing “critically endangered” list. Amazingly they have clung to existence despite the pressures from hunting, habitat destruction and introduced predators.

The phrase “clinging to existence” belies an enormous amount of patient work over six decades on the bird’s behalf and also their habitat.

Why so long, you may ask? Well, the situation in this country where so many bird species evolved in an environment devoid of mammals [excepting bats] meant there were no defences when predators arrived.

We have had to implement the defences, and no one in the world has ever dealt with this scenario so unique. Which really means there has been a lot of experimentation underscored by the odd mistake. Fortunately we’ve been able to react lightly and move on to reach this amazing goal of 300 birds up from several!

Rain in Fiordland
This is more the norm in Fiordland. Photo by Southern Light

Takahē come from times when many large flightless birds were spread throughout the country. They do have wings, but are flightless and only occasionally use them for display during courtship, or as a show of aggression.

Photo from RadioNZ’s article

Takahe numbers have reached 300, for the first time in more than 50 years. It’s a milestone for the endangered bird, which has been the subject of a marathon conservation effort following its dramatic rediscovery in 1948.

Read more at the source: Takahe – back from the brink | Our Changing World | Radio New Zealand