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Takahe were once abundant throughout New Zealand.  The first recorded specimen was caught alive on Resolution Island in 1849 by a seal hunter's dog.  Another three takahe were found the same way, but this was all that was known about the bird in 1900 so it was assumed to be extinct.

Dr Geoffrey Orbell undertook an intensive two-year search in a wet, remote region of the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland, where 250 inches of rain fall in a year.  In 1948 he rediscovered two takahe near the shores of Lake Orbell, causing a sensation amongst ornithologists throughout the world.

Then 400 more birds were found in the alpine tussock grassland of the Murchison Mountains and two adjoining ranges.

Photo above: Crown Copyright © Department of Conservation

See more on takahe

Takahe numbers increase significantly

4 July 2005

Department of Conservation staff have witnessed an unprecedented growth in takahe numbers following this season's census. There has been a very good 13.6 percent increase in the number of adult birds, with the number of breeding pairs up 7.9 percent.

The takahe census is carried out annually and covers a core part of the 50,000ha takahe Special Area within Fiordland National Park.  A large network of traps has been set-up for stoat control, which effectively protects over 15,000 hectares of this special area.

"We will be keeping an eye on how the takahe in this area of the Murchison Mountains respond over the next few years, compared with other parts of the takahe Special Area not protected by traps" said DOC ranger Jane Maxwell.

"Nothing seems to happen very quickly when dealing with a long-lived, slow breeding species, so increases of this level are really significant"

Stoats are not the only threat to takahe.  The takahe's staple food, the tussock grasses, are still recovering from hard deer browsing over three decades ago.

Twenty five years after the introduction of helicopter deer control in the Murchison Mountains, the tussocks are now close to original condition. Ongoing deer control is maintained in the area using local helicopter operators and contract hunters.

With the increase in takahe numbers over recent years, the recovery programme now faces the new challenge of maintaining this trend. "The Murchison Mountain population is nearing capacity and we hope to see more takahe setting up home beyond the Special Area over the next few years" said DOC takahe programme manager Dave Crouchley.


The status of takahe Porphyrio mantelli on the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is 'endangered'.  It has the highest priority of 'nationally critical' in the 2005 New Zealand Threat Classification System.  The North Island takahe Porphyrio hochstetteri is extinct.
Photo: Geoff Moon

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The 2002 to 2007 national takahe Recovery Plan has a goal of increasing takahe numbers by 25 percent.

Fiordland is home to over 60 percent of the world's total takahe population with 171 birds in total.  Other takahe are on protected offshore islands, including Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Early estimates suggest that the takahe population in Fiordland may have declined by about 60 percent in the 30 years following their rediscovery in 1948.

Copyright © 2005 TerraNature Trust. All rights reserved.

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