The takahe are doing well at Tawharanui Regional Park and providing support for the national takahe recovery group, together with lots of interest for park users. To date, we have 14 adult birds on the park and one chick. Last year’s chick was named Tuakana (first born) and has been translocated to Motutapu Island where it is hoped he and his partner might breed next year. In this summer’s breeding season we had three nests. Three eggs hatched but, unfortunately, only one chick survived. Sometimes it takes birds a few seasons to work out their parenting skills! We welcomed a new adult pair recently and another pair is coming soon, but we are losing two birds as the gene pool is mixed around. A fourth nest is underway and it is hoped that the resulting chick might survive.
Like racehorses (with their birthday on August 1), all takahe share a birthday. October 1 marks the beginning of the takahe calendar year. Department of Conservation senior takahe ranger Glen Greaves says this is when the previous summer’s chicks are said to be a year old and can be included in the total population count. This year’s official yearly takahe population count is in, with 347 birds recorded throughout the country – a 13 per cent increase on last year. Glen says this is the highest annual growth rate recorded in the population since management began almost 70 years ago.
Importantly, of those 347 birds, more than two-thirds are coupled up. The takahe population now includes more than 100 breeding pairs. This is significant as the number of breeding pairs is the most accurate measure of population health. A total population number can give false security, if there is a significant age or sex bias. As the population grows there is more certainty for the future of the takahe. The species has recently moved two steps away from extinction, according to the New Zealand Threat Classification System. The recovery programme is confident the number of takahe will increase by at least 10 per cent after this summer’s breeding season.
With the population increasing, new sanctuary sites, such as Tawharanui, have doubled in the past 10 years. This provides an important safeguard for the species should disaster strike the wild population in Fiordland. A new wild population is planned for Kahurangi National Park, near Nelson.
Our Tawharanui takahe are monitored weekly by a group of enthusiastic volunteers who have been doing this rostered task since the birds were first released here three years ago. We check the birds’ locations, that their transmitters are working and, when seen, that the birds are in good condition.