A plague of stoats is decimating the wild population of one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and a new plan has been formulated to save them from extinction.
Scores of the native takahe have been wiped out by feral stoats and Phil Tisch from the Department of Conservation says it has been a shock and a surprise.
“It’s really hard going out and finding dead birds,” says Tisch.
Some takahe are now being reared at Fiordland’s Burwood Bush unit and although the numbers are quite low DOC spokeswoman Linda Kilduff says it is vital for the bird’s continuing survival. She says it’s a real privilege to experience the contact with the birds.
“The resident pairs here actually have a really important task to foster the chicks and teach them the skills needed to be returned to the mountains,” says Kilduff.
Takahe Valley in the middle of the Murchison Mountains is a historic place for the takahe as it was where the bird was rediscovered in 1948. Before that, takahe were considered extinct.
Since humans arrived in New Zealand a thousand years ago more than a third of the land and freshwater birds have become extinct.
DOC is determined that won’t happen to the takahe. Intensive conservation programmes have halted the bird’s decline and about 70 are kept on off-shore, predator-free islands to keep them away from their worst enemy – the stoat.