Mitre 10 backs takahe mission

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 17/09/2012
Conservation Department takahe ranger Martin Genet and Te Anau Mitre 10 manager Neil Hodges prepare to move stoat traps
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ
TRAP TIME: Conservation Department takahe ranger Martin Genet and Te Anau Mitre 10 manager Neil Hodges prepare to move stoat traps in the Murchison Mountains’ Snag Burn Valley.

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The survival of the highly endangered takahe has been bolstered with the extension of a partnership between the Conservation Department and big business.

Hardware giant Mitre 10 has announced it will continue to help fund the Takahe Recovery Programme for another three years.

Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue has contributed more than half a million dollars to the partnership with DOC since 2005 and has pledged at least $150,000 a year in the extended partnership.

Mitre 10 New Zealand chairman Martin Dippie said it was a critical time for takahe in the Murchison Mountains.

‘"Takahe are on the brink of extinction yet many people aren't aware of the seriousness of their plight," he said.

"Through Mitre 10's partnership we hope to help raise awareness of the risk takahe face and encourage New Zealanders to join us to support their rescue."

The Fiordland mountains are home to the only truly wild population of the endangered takahe, a large flightless bird found only in New Zealand. But the stoat plague is threatening the bird's survival.

DOC takahe programme manager Phil Tisch said stoat populations were driven up by rats and rat capture rates in the Murchison Mountains this winter were the highest on record.

But as the rat population decreased in winter from stoat predation and natural attrition, stoats would switch prey if their preferred diet of rats became unavailable, Mr Tisch said.

"We unfortunately learnt this the hard way in 2007 when a stoat plague resulted in a loss of about 45 per cent of the Murchison takahe population," he said.

DOC had increased the frequency of trap checks and the number of traps in areas with high takahe numbers.

The number of takahe carrying transmitters in the Murchison Mountains has been increased to 57 birds. Mr Tisch said the transmitters could be read by a monitoring aircraft flying over the mountains and so far none of the monitored takahe had been killed by stoats.

Takahe on edge of extinction

● With only 260 takahe left in the world the birds are listed in the Conservation Department's highest threat category - "Nationally Critical", which is only one step away from extinction

● Murchison Mountain takahe population is estimated to be 110

● A stoat plague in 2007 resulted in the Murchison population falling from 167 birds to 94

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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