TOSSI - Takahē taxi to new nests
During the first lockdown a planned review of the takahē performance at Tāwharanui was completed and the outcome was to move three of the taonga to different homes throughout Aotearoa. In September, the three takahē spread their wings and relocated to homes where they should thrive and contribute to the recovery of the threatened and nationally vulnerable native bird.
The territorial ground-dwellers like a spacious environment and, at Tāwharanui, each breeding pair prefers about 20 hectares of bush and swamp. Some takahē are renowned escape artists, which is expensive and time consuming for Auckland Council park rangers and TOSSI volunteers – not to mention risky adventures for the runaways.
Catching and transporting critical fauna requires extensive planning, which became more complicated with Covid-19 impacting on timing and the safety of people. Rangers and volunteers collaborated to lure the birds into socially distanced pens because takahē get flustered when too close to one another. Supplementary feeding teaches them where to find tucker and on transfer day an early breakfast was used to gently entice the birds into pens where they were prepared for transporting.
Takahē have beaks like secateurs and trained handlers held the birds firmly but with caution while they removed the transmitters used to monitor their movements at Tāwharanui. Vaccinations were given to prevent erysipelas, a life-threatening bacteria found in birds and animals, and data was collected to give each bird a body condition score and identify any little quirks. For example, takahē Pukekohe has unusual saggy skin under one foot and it is useful to share this information with rangers at the new location so they know it's not a concern.
Once the birds were safely tucked into their individual carry cases, TOSSI volunteer Sally Richardson was honoured to provide the takahē taxi service. Her journey had to be smooth riding, so no slamming on the brakes. She kept the car cool and quiet – so no listening to irritating talkback radio. Driving with caution is important when you have five of the only 420 takahē thought to be living on the planet.