From Fiordland to Motutapu island, in the heart of Auckland, is a long way to travel in a day – particularly if you’re a flightless bird. Nine takahē made the journey on Sunday November 4.
The birds were captured early in the morning at Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit, near Te Anau, by rangers who run Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue. They were placed in transportation boxes and driven to Queenstown Airport to catch an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.
The birds joined passengers on board a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.
The takahē proved popular with the Air New Zealand stewards and passengers on the flight. They were thrilled to be able to see the rare birds – there are only 260 in the world – inside their boxes. On arrival at Auckland Airport the takahē were carried from the plane to DOC and Mitre 10 utes and driven to Devonport. There they were transferred to a DOC boat, Taikehu, and ferried to Home Bay on Motutapu.
Ngai Tahu representative, Stewart Bull, made the journey from the deep south with the birds. He linked with Ngai Tai and Ngati Paoa representatives to provide a powhiri for the takahē on Motutapu. The birds were then released into native vegetation planted by volunteers from the Motutapu Restoration Trust.
The birds join four other takahē released on Motutapu on August 27 last year. The first release marked the declaration of Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto – the islands are joined by a short causeway – as pest free. Ella, one of the takahē released last year, was seen at Home Bay checking out the action surrounding the arrival of the new birds.
The translocation on November 4 was the largest movement of takahē outside Fiordland ever. The aim is to have up to 20 breeding pair on Motutapu. This will make it the largest population of takahē outside Fiordland. This is an important step in securing the survival of takahē as the other pest free islands providing a safe haven for the species – Kapiti, Mana, Maud and Tiritiri Matangi – are now running out of room for the birds. Motutapu provides a large safe site, with a good habitat for takahē, that will enable the overall population to keep growing.
A big thank you to Phil Tisch, the Takahe Programme Manager, who travelled with the birds all the way from Burwood to Motutapu Island; Phil Marsh and Helen Dodson who helped trap the birds in Burwood; Claudia Babirat who filmed the whole transfer; Glen Greaves, the Takahē Productivity Manager, who helped out with the release; and Andrew Nelson and Hazel Speed from Auckland who put a huge amount of effort into organising the event on the day.
DOC’s partnership with Mitre 10 is crucial in the work to ensure takahē survive. Takahē were thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains deep in the Fiordland National Park. DOC has been working with Mitre 10 to save takahē since 2005.