Takahe released on Motutapu Island

By Kieran Campbell

One of New Zealand's rarest native birds, the takahe, is released on Motutapu Island. Photo / DoC
One of New Zealand's rarest native birds, the takahe, is released on Motutapu Island. Photo / DoC

Motutapu Island is fast becoming a safe haven for rare native birds with the release yesterday of nine takahe on to the pest-free land.

The takahe join four kiwi that were introduced to Motutapu last month in a new program to rescue native birds from the brink of extinction.

Only 260 takahe remain in the world and it is hoped their new home on the pest-free island off Auckland will help keep them alive.

The birds were once widespread throughout New Zealand but their numbers have depleted as a result of predators and the destruction of their habitat.

The takahe released yesterday were brought the length of the country, beginning their journey in Burwood Bush Takahe Rearing Unit near Te Anau before being driven to Queenstown.

At Queenstown Airport they joined passengers on a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland where they were then ferried out to the island.

The Department of Conservation has worked with the support of more than half a million dollars in funding from Mitre 10 to save the takahe.

DoC Takahe recovery programme manager Phil Tisch said the release of the birds on to Motutapu was crucial in saving them from extinction.

"It's enabling us to take another big step forward in building a safe future for takahe by building a new population on Motutapu," he said.

Takahe 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 November 20, 1948.

Motutapu's native forest provides a good home for takahe and the island is large enough to hold up to 20 breeding pairs, creating the largest takahe population outside Fiordland.

- APNZ

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