Tawa the takahe sent off to find a mate

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013
Tawa the takahe
BARRY HARCOURT

MOVING ON: Department of Conservation takahe relationship manager Phil Marsh transfers Tawa, a 16-month-old female takahe, from the Te Anau Wildlife Park to Burwood Bush to find a mate.

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Valentines Day came early for Tawa the takahe when she left her home at the Te Anau Wildlife Park to find a new mate yesterday.

Tawa will be expected to play an important role in ensuring her species survive - as one half of a potential breeding pair of takahe.

Department of Conservation takahe relationship manager Phil Marsh said about 260 takahe remained in the world, with only about 75 breeding pairs.

Just 55 of those were at sites where they were not exposed to predators, he said. That meant every pair was extremely precious.

"It is all a numbers game and by having as many breeding pairs as possible, the takahe's survival chances improve."

DOC rangers yesterday moved 16-month-old Tawa from her home at the Te Anau Wildlife Park to the Burwood Bush Takahe Breeding Unit near Mossburn.

"Like all teenagers, there comes a day when it's time to move out," Mr Marsh said.

Tawa had joined a group of similar-aged birds at Burwood and DOC staff would give them several days to settle before separating Tawa and a male for breeding.

The department's funding partnership with Mitre 10 allowed DOC to move breeding birds around, he said.

"This is vital to ensure we keep the takahe population genetically healthy.

"If we left them alone on islands or at small sites, inbreeding would rapidly reduce their fertility and the numbers of takahe would really dive."

Tawa would spend a few months getting to know her takahe valentine before they would probably be moved from Burwood to Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf, a new takahe breeding site with a growing population of takahe.

Tawa had been a popular attraction at the Te Anau Wildlife Park since moving there as a seven-week-old chick in December 2011.

Visitors could see Tawa's foster parents Tumbles and Kawa, who remain at the Wildlife Park and are ready to raise another chick next season, Mr Marsh said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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