Endangered New Zealand birds released


This is a takahé video from New Zealand.

From Wildlife Extra:

Critically Endangered takahē released onto Auckland island

One of New Zealand’s rarest native birds, the takahē, has been released on Motutapu Island in the heart of Auckland.

November 2012. There are only 260 takahē in the world and nine were released on Motutapu Island. Motutapu is a pest free island half an hour by ferry from downtown Auckland. Takahē were once widespread throughout New Zealand but have been brought to the brink of extinction by predators, particularly stoats, and the destruction of their habitat. The release is a major milestone in work DOC is doing in partnership with Mitre 10, aimed at securing the survival of this critically endangered native bird.

Takahē brought from Te Anau

The takahē were transported almost the length of the country. Their journey began at the Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit near Te Anau. The birds were loaded into transportation boxes and driven to Queenstown by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers who run the Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue programme.

At Queenstown Airport the takahē joined passengers on board a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, as part of the airline’s sponsorship arrangement with DOC which includes providing air transport for the department’s translocation programmes. From Auckland Airport the nine takahē travelled by road to Devonport and then by DOC boat to Motutapu. They were released into native forest planted by volunteers from the Motutapu Restoration Trust.

Thought extinct until 1948

Takahē were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in the Fiordland National Park 64 years ago. Dr Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the flightless bird, deep in the Murchison Mountains, on 20 November 1948. The work to save takahē has involved gathering ‘excess’ eggs from the Murchison Mountains and hatching them at the Burwood Bush unit. Chicks reared at the unit were then released onto pest free islands where they have been safe from stoats. This has led to an increase in takahē numbers.

Pest free islands

Pest free islands where takahē have been released – Kapiti, Mana, Maud and Tiritiri Matangi – are now running out of room for takahē. A new site, free of predators and with a suitable habitat, is needed to enable the takahē population to continue growing. Motutapu fits the bill perfectly. It and neighbouring Rangitoto – the two islands are joined by a short causeway – were declared pest free on August 27 last year. Four takahē were released on Motutapu to mark the pest free declaration.

Motutapu’s grass and native forest provide a good home for takahē and the island is big enough to hold up to 20 breeding pair of takahē. This will create the largest takahē population outside Fiordland, a crucial step in securing the future of this critically endangered bird.

Takahē fact file

An adult takahē is about the size of a hen – 50 cm high – and weighs three kilograms.
Their shelter is also their food. Takahē eat mostly tussock.
The closest relative of the takahē is the pūkeko. Takahē are stouter with stubbier legs, have a heavier beak and shield and unlike pūkeko have no ability to fly.
A takahē is far more colourful than a pūkeko with its feathers ranging from deep blue through turquoise to olive green. Pūkeko are mainly black and blue.
Takahē have wings which are no good for flying but are used for courting and showing their dominance.
Takahē lay their eggs on a raised nest made of tussock grass making the eggs and chicks highly vulnerable to stoats.
Mating pairs of takahē produce one to three eggs each season. Of these 80% hatch.
Both parents incubate the eggs for 30 days and feed the chicks until they are three months old.
Takahē chicks stay with their parents until they are a year or sometimes two years old.
Naturally occurring takahē populations are only found in the Murchison Mountains in the Fiordland National Park.
With such a small population takahē are vulnerable to extinction particularly if there is a disease outbreak or an increase in predator numbers.

Tuatara conservation in New Zealand


This is a tuatara video.

From the New Zealand Herald:

Tuatara find safe haven on second gulf island

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

8:25 AM Monday Mar 26, 2012

Sixty tuatara have been relocated to pest-free Motuihe Island to help make sure more of the unique reptiles will be around for years to come.

The tuatara – from Lady Alice Island, one of the Hen and Chicken Islands off Northland – were flown to Motuihe yesterday and handed over during a special ceremony.

The release is part of a project led by the Motuihe Trust to establish a population of tuatara near Auckland and therefore more accessible. The Department of Conservation is also involved in the project.

There have been no mice, rats, rabbits or feral cats on the island for seven years. It is hoped that the move to the pest-free zone will ensure the population of tuatara thrives to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Trust chairman John Laurence said that with up to 350,000 native trees planted, Motuihe Island was the perfect home not only for tuatara but other wildlife living there including kakariki, little spotted kiwi, shore skink and kiwi.

DoC Auckland area manager Brett Butland said a lot of work had been done at the island to make sure endangered wildlife there would be safe.

He stressed that people travelling to such islands must check their vessels for pests.

Yesterday’s release means there are now three pest-free islands with tuatara in the Hauraki Gulf – the others being Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island.

See also here.

Tuatara reptile slices food with ‘steak-knife teeth': here.

A New Rhynchocephalian from the Late Jurassic of Germany with a Dentition That Is Unique amongst Tetrapods: here.