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Wild takahē return to Kahurangi National Park

Wednesday 21st November 2018

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In a significant step for DOC’s Takahē Recovery Programme, 18 birds were released into Gouland Downs off the Heaphy Track earlier this year.

DOC Takahē Operations Manager Deidre Vercoe says after considerable preparation it was fantastic to return takahē to a part of their ancestral home.

“This translocation marked the next step in takahē recovery. Currently, these taonga birds only have one large wild site to call home – the remote Murchison Mountains of Fiordland. Trying to establish another large wild population is a bold move and it might not work, but we must push the boundaries if we are to learn and make progress.

“If the birds released today successfully establish in Kahurangi, we are a significant step closer to achieving our goal of seeing takahē in growing numbers in large areas of their former natural range.”

Conservation Minster Eugenie Sage says the release marks an important stage in the species’ recovery and highlights the importance of robust predator control programmes.

“The past couple of years have been huge for takahē with the population reaching a milestone 300 birds and moving from Nationally Critical to Nationally Vulnerable,” says Eugenie Sage.

“With the population increasing a rapid 10% per year, secure island and mainland sanctuary sites that are currently home to most takahē are filling up fast. We’re at the stage where we have a blueprint for breeding birds successfully – but without suitable habitat with low predator numbers their future is still not secure.”

Kahurangi is the best bet for a new wild population to survive and thrive with its large areas of intact tussock grassland and extensive predator control including DOC Battle for our Birds operations and a large trapping network supported by Air New Zealand.

The programme estimates it could eventually accommodate up to 30 breeding pairs.

The Kahurangi takahē release is only made possible through the ongoing support of Takahē Recovery Programme partners Ngāi Tahu and Fulton Hogan, Deidre Vercoe says.

Safely moving 18 large, flightless birds from the Burwood Takahē Centre near Te Anau to their new home has been a team effort, with Air New Zealand operating a special direct charter service to fly the takahē from Queenstown to Nelson.

Air New Zealand Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell says Air New Zealand has carried more than 2500 native creatures to safer habitats in the past five years – but this is the first time it has operated a flight specifically for the precious passengers.

“It’s exciting our work to extend our Great Walk conservation efforts to the Heaphy Track will help takahē roam this iconic landscape again,” says Lisa Daniell.

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