Single Takahē in tussock

Takahē returning to Kahurangi: Kia kaha!

They’re big, blue, beautiful and will hopefully breed. Fingers and toes are crossed that a group of takahē will settle into life in Kahurangi National Park after being released on March 20.

The Department of Conservation released 18 birds onto the Gouland Downs near Heaphy Track is a historic attempt to create the first new wild population outside of Fiordland.

Takahē release at Gouland Downs. Photo: Danilo Hegg

The takahē was thought to be extinct until 1948 when Geoffrey Orbell re-discovered the bird in the remote Murchison Mountains, in Fiordland. That’s the only place they have lived in the wild since then.

Trying to establish another wild population is a risky step, but one worth taking if we want to see takahē in growing numbers in large areas of their former natural range.

The release is the result of a lot of hard work, good science and dedication. It marks an important stage in the species’ recovery which is now 300 birds-strong. That a bird that was classified Nationally Critical has now improved to be Nationally Vulnerable is a testament to the breeding programme and predator control work that DOC and its partners have done.

The takahē population is increasing by 10 percent annually so 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.

The Kahurangi takahē release was supported by Takahē Recovery Programme partners Ngāi Tahu and Fulton Hogan.

The birds will be closely monitored over the coming months and years to track survival, health, habitat use and breeding success.