Introduction

Mitre 10 and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are celebrating the arrival of this year’s first takahe chick at DOC's Burwood Takahe Rearing Unit late last month.

Ranger holding takahe chick. Photo: Glen Greaves.
Ranger holding takahe chick

Mitre 10 and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are celebrating the arrival of this year’s first takahe chick at DOC's Burwood Takahe Rearing Unit late last month.

“We only have 250 takahe left, so every chick is worth celebrating,” said DOC Takahe Programme Manager Phil Tisch. “However, this will be the first chick to be left to be raised naturally by its parent birds at Burwood for many years.”

Mr Tisch described the change from hand-rearing to allowing takahe pairs to rear their chicks as ‘stepping back to move forward’. Previously, DOC had maximised the amount of takahe chicks that could be reared by removing eggs from wild and captive takahe nests, artificially incubating and hand-rearing chicks. Now that there are more breeding pairs they are moving back to allowing adult takahe to incubate the eggs and rear the chicks. 

He said that although using puppets definitely helped prevent human imprinting on chicks, allowing chicks to remain with parents meant they were able to pick up the skills which would increase their own success in rearing chicks in the wild.

“Working in partnership with Mitre10 Takahe Rescue we’ve built the takahe recovery programme to where we can move from holding six pairs of breeding birds at Burwood to holding twenty pairs” said Mr Tisch. “This allows us to rear as many if not more chicks as when we were hand-rearing, but more efficiently and we think with better quality birds resulting.”

DOC staff have worked over the winter building new pens to hold the additional breeding pairs. So far they have the one healthy chick as well as ten pairs of birds already nesting.

Takahe are also beginning the season’s breeding on a number of islands around New Zealand with chicks already hatched on Maud, Mana and Tiritiri Matangi islands and at Maungatautari Ecological Island in the Waikato.

Background information

  • Mitre10 have sponsored takahe conservation through Mitre10 Takahe Rescue for the past six years. In particular the sponsorship programme has supported safe-guarding the wild population through the purchase of transmitters for monitoring takahe; the management of island populations through transferring takahe between populations to maintain genetic diversity; the on-going development of Burwood Takahe Rearing Unit.
  • For the first part of the twentieth century takahe were presumed extinct, but in 1948 their rediscovery in remote Fiordland attracted world-wide attention. Since this time takahe conservation has focused on securing this population from extinction and establishing populations on islands secure from introduced predators. Fiordland still retains the only wild population of takahe, though populations have been established on various islands around New Zealand.
  • Attempts to save the takahe have pioneered conservation techniques for protected species in New Zealand and in the world. Included in this has been the captive rearing and establishment of island populations.These techniques have been used in turn to secure the survival of other endangered species in New Zealand, such as the kakapo.
  • Takahe are listed as nationally critical within the New Zealand threatened species classification system. 
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