Takahē have been returned to Ngāi Tahu whenua (land) in the upper reaches of the Lake Wakatipu valley in the hope of establishing a third wild population.
Ngāi Tahu rangatira Tā Tipene O’Regan oversaw the release, in conjunction with the Department of Conservation (Doc), of 18 takahē at Greenstone Station last Wednesday. Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime was also present.
He said his connection with takahē dated back to 1949 after he first came across the birds during an expedition with Dr Geoffrey Orbell, a year after they were discovered.
“I have been enraptured by takahē since I was a boy, so it is very satisfying to release our taonga on our own whenua as we move towards a shared goal of seeing takahē throughout the Ngāi Tahu takiwā,” he said.
Doc takahē recovery operations manager Deidre Vercoe said attempting to set up a third wild population was another pivotal step towards the takahē recovery goal of multiple takahē populations living wild over large areas of their former range.
“Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Doc work closely together on the takahē recovery programme, in partnership with national partner Fulton Hogan and the New Zealand Nature Fund, so it’s especially pleasing to be bringing takahē back to Ngāi Tahu whenua.”
Ms Vercoe said about half the takahē population were living in large wild sites in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains and in Kahurangi National Park, where they were first released in 2018.
The population was nearing 500 and increasing by about 8% annually, so new homes were needed.
However, that came with challenges.
“If we want takahē to thrive, we need to explore new sites and learn as much as we can to protect the birds now and into the future.
“We will closely monitor the takahē in the Greenstone Valley to see how they establish in their new home.”
The site was chosen because it appeared to have a suitable habitat, and predator numbers could be maintained at low levels.
That was in part due to trapping of stoats, ferrets and feral cats.
— Staff reporter