In the past these large, flightless birds were widespread across both islands but the North Island variety became extinct and birds that lived in even the most remote areas struggled to survive, especially after deer and stoats came visiting. In 1898 this endemic relative of the native pūkeko was declared extinct. Despite rumours that these birds might have survived in remote corners there was no hard evidence until 1948 when a bird was spotted in a lonely, wind swept, Fiordland valley by Dr Orbell.

This discovery made world headlines.

Something had to be done to protect this living treasure. Clever minds, dedicated people, money and novel new techniques were all needed to save the takahē.

A takahē recovery program was set up by DOC, the Department of Conservation, and birds began to be transferred from the Murchison Mountains into predator free sanctuaries. Burwood Bush Scientific Reserve near Te Anau set up a takahē breeding and research program.

To protect the few remaining birds and ensure takahē do not end up on the extinction list again, small populations of birds were released on Mana Island, Kapati, Maud, Rarotoka and Tiritiri Matangi.  The first mainland sanctuary to have takahē was Maungatautari Ecological Island. Birds have now also been released at Tawharanui Opan Sanctuary near Warkworth, Cape Sanctuary near Cape Kidnappers. These are all either predator free islands or have predator proof fences.

As the population slowly increases birds will be released in new areas (like Rotoroa Is in the Hauraki Gulf) and old birds will be removed from breeding programs to allow younger birds space to breed. These older birds then become ambassadors for the species and you may get a visit from one in your town.

You can also see the amazing takahē at Auckland Zoo, Pukeha Mt Bruce near Masterton, Zealandia in Wellington,  Punanga Manu o Te Anau – Te Anau Bird Sanctuary  in Southland.

Today Murchison Valley is the only place in NZ where wild birds still survive.

Takahē websites