What is a Takahē Secure Site?
A Secure Site is a site where predators have been eliminated so takahē are safe. Takahē secure sites are made up of islands and completely predator-fenced mainland sites including Burwood Takahē Centre.
None of these sites are large enough to hold a genetically robust population, but together they will eventually hold enough breeding pairs for takahē to be safe from the threat of extinction AND we can then begin to build populations at less secure sites.
Managing so many breeding sites creates challenges – juggling birds between sites to ensure genetic health requires an on-going programme of transfers between sites.
Size does matter
In the past attempts have been made to ensure that all island/mainland sites have a minimum of five breeding pairs of takahē. It’s difficult managing sites with a few pairs here and there. For many sites with only a handful of birds it’s necessary to regularly transfer young birds to maintain a genetically healthy population.
Most islands with takahē are nearing carrying capacity, so in partnership with others Takahē Recovery has recently established four new sites; Motutapu Island, Cape Sanctuary, Tawharanui Open Sanctuary and most recently Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The search is on for further secure sites to hold breeding takahē.
A video of takahē released onto Rotoroa Island in August 2016
How many takahē are there at secure sites?
As of June 2015 there were 58 breeding pairs in safe accessible sites across New Zealand.
Takahē numbers were steadily declining in the Murchison Mountains until about 1981, when more intensive management methods were implemented. Birds were handraised at the Burwood Takahē Centre and then released onto predator-free islands, to act as insurance populations. Whilst these islands still provide ‘insurance’ against major catastrophe in the remaining wild population, they now play a more vital role as ‘secure sites’ from which to build the breeding population of takahē.
When other endangered birds are transferred to islands, they move from a mainland forest home to a similar island forest home. Not so for the takahē, their move was from alpine tussock grasslands to lowland islands with introduced grasses, far removed from their natural mountain home. Still they have thrived on introduced grasses and are now found on six predator free islands; Maud, Mana, Kapiti, Motutapu, Tiritiri Matangi, Rotoroa and on an seventh iwi-owned island.
Predator-fenced mainland sanctuaries
Maungatautari Ecological Island was the first mainland site to welcome takahē. This was a logical step for Takahē Recovery; predator-free islands were reaching their takahē carrying capacity and predator-proof fences seemed to have potential for keeping takahe safe on the mainland. It also provided the opportunity for research to be undertaken into what habitat takahē preferred and the suitability of introducing the South Island takahē to the North Island mainland.