“The reintroduction of Takahe into the Kahurangi National Park after an absence of over one hundred years is a massive conservation and tourism gain for Nelson”, says Environment Minister and Nelson MP, Nick Smith.
“We dreamed when we established the Kahurangi National Park in 1996 that one day this might be possible but I did not think it would happen in my life time. It is a tribute to the DOC Takahe Recovery Team that the population of Takahe has now grown to over 300 birds that will now require new habitat that have made this dream possible.” Dr Smith said.
“This Takahe reintroduction shows the potential of Conservation Minister Maggie Barry’s vision of Predator-Free New Zealand by 2050. It reinforces that with effective pest control we can recreate the native habitat that makes New Zealand special.”
Takahe were assumed to be extinct but were miraculously rediscovered by Geoffry Orbell in 1948 in the remote Murchison Mountains in Fiordland. The population continued to decline to just 118 birds in the early 1980s but dedicated conservation efforts have subsequently enabled recovery. The Takahe population is now increasing by 10% a year and the current main goal of the recovery programme is to establish a second self-sustaining wild population in an area of its natural range.
The Gouland Downs area of the Kahurangi National Park has been selected because of its tussock grasslands, the fossil remains showing Takahe previously lived there and because of the extensive pest control operations that ensure the Takahe are safe from predators.
The 23 flightless birds are to make the journey on a special Air New Zealand charter flight next week. The new population is made up of eight breeding pairs and seven unrelated younger birds. A further seven Takahe are planned to be introduced to the park in January 2018. It is estimated that the Gouland Downs could eventually accommodate up to 40 breeding pairs.
“This is one of the most significant transfers and repopulations of a nationally vulnerable bird in the history of New Zealand conservation. The birds are to be closely monitored to track how well they establish. I pay tribute to not just DOC, but their partners Fulton and Hogan, Air New Zealand, NZ National Parks and Conservation Foundation and Manawhenua Ki Mohua who are making this possible.”
“The tourism bonus for Nelson of relocating Takahe to the Gouland Downs area of the Kahurangi National Park is that people tramping or mountain biking the Heaphy Track will have the opportunity to see these iconic birds in the wild. The area is much more accessible than the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland, or the few offshore islands where they reside and offers a unique experience of seeing Takahe in their natural habitat.”
“The establishment of this second wild population of Takahe in Nelson is a huge step for conservation. It powerfully illustrates that it is possible to pull a species back from extinction, it reinforces the value 20 years ago in creating the National Park and shows the benefits of effective pest control.” Concluded Dr Smith.
Attached: Picture of Nick Smith with Takahe