Last September, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve acquired two rare takahe from a Department of Conservation (DoC) rearing unit in Southland. The pair, named Hamilton (a male) and Guy (a female), were sent to Willowbank to retire after years of fostering chicks in the rearing centre. With the addition of Hamilton and Guy, Willowbank has become the only private park in the country where takahe are available for public viewing.
About the takahe
Takahe are endemic to New Zealand, which means they only live here. The birds, which look a little like chickens in size and shape but with vibrant blue-purple feathers, are extremely endangered: there are only 200-300 left in the wild.
In fact, takahe are so endangered that from 1898-1948 they were thought to be extinct.
Takahe are still very rare, but population numbers are rising thanks to the conservation efforts of DoC and other organisations around New Zealand.
The takahe population dropped in the face of introduced predators and competitors. Fortunately, DoC is determined to reverse this trend. By operating breeding and rearing sites in Southland and maintaining takahe populations on predator-free islands, the population is on the rise.
At the DoC facilities, eggs are incubated and chicks are raised by takahe foster parents. The chicks are raised with as little human contact as possible, and fed with puppets to make sure they recognise themselves as having takahe parents. Once they are old enough,
the chicks are fostered by older pairs who teach them all the important tricks and techniques involved in being a takahe!
Hamilton and Guy
Hamilton and Guy were both hatched in Southland in the 1990’s. Hamilton is older, hatched at DoC’s Burwood Bush rearing centre on December 18, 1992. Guy was also hatched at Burwood, on November 15, 1995.
After nearly 16 years as mates, Hamilton and Guy have raised dozens of foster chicks at the Burwood Bush facility. Each season, the pair raised at least six chicks, teaching them important feeding and survival skills. The two have been loving and dedicated parents as well as important contributors to the conservation effort.
After so many years as model parents, Hamilton and Guy have deserved their retirement! The couple will spend their time in their enclosure at Willowbank, acting as ambassadors of the takahe conservation programme.
So far the pair have taken to retirement quite well and are definitely enjoying their new home. Stop by to say hello and have a peak into the life off the rare, New Zealand takahe!