Introduction

Alpine, one of the first birds in the takahē recovery programme and the longest surviving bird, has died.

Date:  26 February 2010

Alpine, one of the first birds in the takahē recovery programme and the longest surviving bird, has died.

For 27 years, the old bird captivated thousands of visitors to Te Anau Wildlife Park, Southland, and will be greatly missed.

Takahē recovery manager Phil Tisch with Alpine.
Takahē recovery manager Phil Tisch
with Alpine

“We are very sad that we’ve lost Alpine,” Department of Conservation Te Anau Area Manager Reg Kemper said.

“She was the world’s oldest known takahē and really was the Grand Dame of the takahē population.”

Alpine began her life in a garage at the Wildlife Park in Te Anau after being removed from the Murchison Mountains, Fiordland National Park, as an egg in November 1982.

She, along with two other takahē eggs, were artificially incubated, hatched and then hand-raised in the garage by Martin Bell, a NZ Wildlife Service officer.

DOC takahē ranger Linda Kilduff said Alpine signified the start of the takahē recovery programme.

“She was one of the pioneer takahē who were hand-raised while the techniques of artificial incubation and using takahē hand puppets to avoid human imprinting were being developed.”

Ms Kilduff said the success of hatching and raising Alpine led to the opening of the specialist takahē rearing unit at Burwood Reserve, now known as the Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit.

“The captive rearing techniques developed with Alpine demonstrated the potential of active management and as a result greatly improving the survival chances of the species.”

During her breeding years Alpine - named by pupils from Te Anau School - contributed significantly to the recovery programme. Her progeny totalled over 15 birds.

She outlived all other takahē, including the two other pioneer takahē. In the wild takahē usually live to about 12-13 years.

Ms Kilduff said Alpine’s age and fragile health meant surgery to treat a leg infection would not have been possible – she would not have survived the anaesthetic. To relieve her suffering she was euthanised by a vet.

There are now about 230 takahē – 100 in the Murchison Mountains, Fiordland National Park, 100 on predator-free islands and a further 30 at Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit.

Takahē information

Takahē are an endangered bird species found only in New Zealand. Until they were rediscovered in 1948 in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains, they were widely considered to be extinct. They are among New Zealand’s rarest birds.

After their discovery, the New Zealand Wildlife Service trialled captive breeding in an effort to safeguard the takahē from extinction.

Breeding takahē in captivity proved problematic but, through trial and error, the necessary knowledge and skills were ultimately developed to enable a successful breeding programme centred at a specialist takahē breeding unit at Burwood Bush near Te Anau.

Thanks to a partnership set up in 2005 between Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue, National Parks and Conservation Foundation and the Department of Conservation, additional funding has meant that more chicks can be reared at the Burwood Bush Rearing Unit. Funding also enables chicks born on islands around New Zealand to be transferred to Fiordland to contribute to the core Murchison Mountain population.

Mitre 10’s Takahē Rescue sponsorship has made a real difference to the survival of this rare and very special bird.

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