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Takahe take-off!

…Stoats are not the only threat…

New Zealand's Takahe Porphyrio hochstetteri, the world's largest flightless rail, has experienced a dramatic increase in numbers. Figures out this week indicate a 13.6% increase in the number of adult birds, with the number of breeding pairs up 7.9%.

The Takahe census is carried out annually by New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) and covers a core part of the 50,000 ha Takahe Special Area within Fiordland National Park. The Takahe team has set up a large network of traps for stoat control which effectively protects over 15,000 ha 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.

Stoats are not the only threat. The Takahe's staple food, tussock grasses, are still recovering from hard deer browse over three decades ago. However, twenty-five years after the introduction of helicopter deer control within the Murchison Mountains, the tussocks are now close to their original condition.The Takahe has a remarkable history. In 1948 a remnant population of the species was found living in the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland, on New Zealand's South Island. They had been previously been considered extinct for fifty years.

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, DOC Takahe programme manager Dave Crouchley said.

The 2002 to 2007 National Takahe Recovery Plan has a goal of increasing Takahe numbers by 25%. Fiordland is home to over 60% of the species' total population, with 171 birds present. Others can be found on predator-free offshore islands, where they have been successfully translocated from captive breeding programmes.

4th July 2014