Kuīni, a feisty young takahē who contracted a near-fatal infection, but went on to make a "miraculous" recovery at Auckland Zoo, is today starting a new life on Rotoroa Island with her mate, Anzac.

Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers at the Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit near Te Anau took quick action when they couldn't find Kuīni during a routine check of her and Anzac’s enclosure in late April. Specialist takahē sniffer dogs were brought in to help track her down. 

The four-year-old, found hidden and collapsed in long grass, was first taken to a local vet before an emergency flight up to Auckland Zoo's vet centre where she required weeks of specialist treatment at the centre’s intensive care unit.

"Kuīni was barely conscious and hypothermic on arrival - the result of a severe acute infection very quickly taking hold," says Auckland Zoo vet centre manager, Dr James Chatterton.

"Kuīni's journey from near-death back to health is pretty miraculous. She remained collapsed and barely conscious for the first 36 hours, and we thought the odds of her pulling through were extremely low, however, slowly but surely, she made amazing progress and eventually returned back to full health," says Dr Chatterton.

DOC's Operations Manager for Kākāpō and Takahē, Deidre Vercoe, says Kuīni's comeback, the result of a great team effort, is wonderful news for this unique and critically endangered endemic bird.

"There are currently just 280 takahē in the world, so every life is incredibly precious," says Ms Vercoe.

Kuīni and her mate Anzac's release onto Rotoroa today follows the release of young takahē pair Teichelman and Silberhorn onto the island last May. DOC’s partnership with Auckland Zoo and Rotoroa Island Trust (RIT) to have breeding takahē on pest-free Rotoroa is part of its Takahē Recovery Programme goal to establish 90 breeding pairs of takahē at safe sites throughout New Zealand by 2020.

Rotoroa Island Trust chair, Barrie Brown, says Rotoroa is very happy to be welcoming more takahē. "Teichelman and Silberhorn are absolutely thriving here and we are sure that Kuīni and Anzac will too. Furthermore through the Rotoroa-Zoo partnership schools' programme run on the island, the addition of these takahē will provide us with more great opportunities to engage future conservationists."

The two takahē are being released onto Rotoroa with the blessing of their kaitiaki (guardians) Ngāi Tahu, and will be welcomed onto the island by Ngati Paoa along with Rotoroa Island Trust, Auckland Zoo and DOC representatives.

Video

Takahē pair make Rotoroa Island home

Kuīni, a feisty young takahē and mate Anzac started a new life on Rotoroa Island this week!

Takahē Fast Facts:

  1. ​The South Island takahē (Porphyrio hochstetteri), endemic to New Zealand, is flightless – though has wings, and is the world's largest living rail. It can weigh up to 3kg, and is uniquely adapted to eating grasses 
  2. Status: Critically Endangered (IUCN Red List). Current takahē population is 280 birds
  3. The takahē was once thought to be extinct, but in the 1948 it hit world headlines when an Invercargill doctor, Geoffrey Orbell, rediscovered the bird high in the tussock grasslands of the remote Murchison Mountains, Fiordland.
  4. While the Murchison Mountains is still home to the only surviving remnant population of takahē, almost two thirds of the total takahē population is now found in populations that have been established at various safe sites around New Zealand, including Rotoroa Island, and neighbouring Motutapu Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.
  5. Takahē are large birds, but are flightless and despite being equipped with a powerful beak and legs, are no match for introduced mammalian predators like cats, ferrets and stoats
  6. With its national partner Fulton Hogan, DOC is working to establish a new takahē population at a cat and ferret-free South Island site that can hold up to 50 pairs, by 2020.
  7. As well as managing takahē on Rotoroa Island with its partner, the Rotoroa Island Trust (RIT), Auckland Zoo's High Country aviary in its NZ precinct Te Wao Nui  is home to an elderly retired takahē pair (male Montague and female Ahikaea)
  8. Auckland Zoo is a supplier of veterinary services to DOC for its Takahē and Kakapo recovery programmes and Zoo staff provide field conservation support to northern takahē populations.