Archives For Te Anau

By Megan Martin, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington

A few years ago Kawa, a much loved female takahē, was transferred off Kapiti Island and ended up at the Te Anau Wildlife Centre.

She’s a beautiful, happy bird and is a real star down there—always drawing a crowd.

Kawa being released  by Mitre10 staff at Te Anau Wildlife Park. Photo: Barry Harcourt.

Kawa being released at Te Anau Wildlife Park

Kawa is also very fat. She loves sweetcorn but the staff have to watch her diet because all that sugary starch isn’t good for this chick’s waistline.

Although Kawa wasn’t a particularly successful breeder, her genes were already over-represented in the takahē population, so she was paired up with an infertile male, Tumbles.

Each year, Kawa and Tumbles produce infertile eggs which are replaced with fertile ones because they are such awesome foster parents.

Kawa feeding her foster chick at Te Anau Wildlife Park.

Kawa being an excellent foster mother and feeding her chick

At the moment Kawa and Tumbles are also trialling a new type of harness. No, not so they can be taken for walks, but to test how comfortable a new style of radio transmitter harness might be for the wild takahē roaming ‘round the Murchison Mountains.

When the harness was fitted to Kawa the rangers had difficulty finding her keel, or breastbone. Usually this would stick out, but in Kawa’s case there is a little extra padding, so a considerably smaller harness than the one Kawa wears will have to be used on the wild birds!

Tumbles the takahē puffing up his feathers.

Kawa’s partner in Te Anau, Tumbles

From Kapiti Island girl to foster mother and harness model in Te Anau – we’re proud of you, Kawa!

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Catherine Brimecombe, Biodiversity Ranger at the Te Anau Wildlife Park

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Cleaning aviaries, preparing bird food, arranging ‘enrichment’ for kea and kaka, guiding groups for daily takahē feeding and weekly ‘Breakfast with the Birds’ events through summer.

Catherine sitting with a group of children from a local school.

At work with a group of children from one of our local schools

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Helping people meet birds! People get to come into the takahē enclosure and spend time watching Tumbles, Kawa, Hebe and Monty. Judging by the wonder that people express, I am confident these encounters won’t be forgotten. When something stirs your heart, there’s no limit to the possibilities. Our ambassador birds are inspiring!

The funniest (retrospectively) DOC moment I’ve had so far was:

Arriving at work one morning to find the kea cage wide open. The lack of a note from the Animal Liberation Front told me that I had failed to padlock the outer door correctly. The birds had opened the inner door and enjoyed a night of freedom. Now they were sitting on top of the aviary eyeing me smugly. I remember the sensation of my blood running cold, I was so horrified (I was pretty new in the job). Luckily three of the four birds simply returned to their favourite perches when they were due for a sleep and the fourth was caught a day or two later without having come to harm.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

I am surrounded by extraordinarily hard working and committed people, I couldn’t pick one.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I am Australian by birth.

My stomping ground is:

My childhood stomping ground was the Tukituki River in Hawkes Bay. The river is part of me. A few years ago I took my daughter back to swim where I swam during those endless summers of childhood, and we found a sign warning the public to avoid contact with the water.

Catherine holding a kiwi at Lake Manapouri.

Volunteering for the Pomona Island Charitable Trust on one of Lake Manapouri’s kiwi crèche islands

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be:

Tank Girl. If you don’t know who she is, best you don’t look her up.

My best ever holiday was:

Tonga, last winter, because I had never snorkelled before. No matter how many fantastic reef life documentaries you watch, nothing can prepare you for seeing the real thing. That’s why my job, helping people to meet birds, matters.

In my spare time:

I weed bust and bird watch.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

Mohua, because they are so absolutely engaged in everything they do, and I love the way they use their whole bodies when they are fossicking for insects.

Catherine having her hair dyed.

NOT a natural redhead!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

‘We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

’Your body is not a temple, it is an adventure playground’ (Oh, wait, that was the worst advice…)

In work and life I am motivated by:

The conviction that today is special and I need to wring as much pleasure and productivity out of it as I can!

The crowds at Te Anau Wildlife Park watching the takahē and duck.

Tarks (and duck!) in action, wowing the crowds

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is: 

Conservation goes well with company. Find out if there is a local weed busting, community nursery or predator control group in your area, they’ll welcome your help.

Question of the week…

My favourite planet?  Earth. Unless Planet Takahē is found to exist I am definitely picking Earth, only known home to takahē, and, of course, chocolate.


By Caroline Carter, Community Relations Ranger, Te Anau

Mention ‘Te Anau Wildlife Centre‘ around here and you’ll find it means many different things to many different birds!

A pukeko. Photographed by Peter Harrison.

For pukeko the Te Anau Wildlife Centre is the place to be seen

For some birds, such as the Auckland Island teal, the Te Anau Wildlife Centre is their retirement home, providing a safe nurturing place where breakfast, lunch and tea are assured.

For others, such as the kea and kaka, it is a place of refuge following the loss of a parent at a young age or being the victim of a road accident.

For some birds, such as the pukeko and ducks, it is the place to see and be seen. They all have wings and could fly away… and sometimes they do, but they just can’t resist returning for those crunchy breakfast pellets and plenty of visitors to keep them amused!

And then there’s the takahē. These are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and were once thought to be extinct. The Te Anau Wildlife Centre is home to ‘Hebe’ and ‘Monty’, retirees from the breeding programme, along with two parent takahē ‘Kawa’ and ‘Tumbles’, who each year are given a new chick to foster.

A takahe. Photographed by Br3nda on Flickr.

Ta Anau Wildlife Centre is home to some true takahē charcters

Over the summer visitors had the delight of meeting their chick ‘Tawa’. Her reputation grew for being a bird of distinction, who knew exactly what she wanted in life—and that was corn on the cob for breakfast!

Unfortunately for her, Tawa’s breakfast was not sweetcorn but specially designed pellets rich in all the things a captive takahe needs. The pukeko on the other hand would get a sweetcorn to keep him away from the pellets!

The video that follows is comedy gold as Tawa the takahē battles the pukeko for the corn on the cob breakfast.