In a bid to prevent the extinction of some of the world’s rarest birds, two flightless takahe have been released at a sanctuary in New Zealand.
The pair, named Waitaa and Bendigo, excitedly emerged from their cages to cheers from onlookers at the Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington.
This initiative follows the release of 18 takahe in the mountains of South Island last week, an effort aimed at bolstering the dwindling wild population of these unique birds.
Predators had led takahe to be presumed extinct by the late 19th century, until a small population was rediscovered in the remote grasslands of the Murchison Mountains on South Island in 1948.
Conservation efforts sparked by this discovery have increased the takahe population to nearly 500. Takahe are characterized by their plump bodies, strong red beaks, stout legs, and vibrant blue and green plumage.
They are often confused with pukeko swamp hens, which are visibly thinner.
Due to their slow breeding rate of one to two chicks per year and vulnerability to predation by introduced land predators, takahe are particularly susceptible to extinction.
They subsist on a high-fiber diet of starchy leaves and seeds and can live up to 18 years in the wild and 22 years in sanctuaries.
Waitaa and Bendigo have joined an existing pair of takahe already residing at Zealandia sanctuary on North Island. The sanctuary is enclosed by a predator-exclusion fence, providing the birds with a safer environment.
Last week’s release of nine breeding-age takahe pairs at Greenstone Station near Lake Whakatipu aimed to establish a third wild population on South Island, where these birds hold cultural and spiritual significance.
The other two wild populations are located in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains and Kahurangi National Park.
Conservationists have been dedicated to controlling predator populations, including stoats, feral cats, ferrets, and rats, in order to protect takahe and other native New Zealand species.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources classifies South Island takahe as endangered and North Island takahe as extinct.Email your news TIPS to Editor@kahawatungu.com or WhatsApp +254707482874