'You can’t not love a takahe' - native takahe adds new chapter to survival story

Once thought to be extinct, takahe have added to new chapter to their survival story.

Eighteen of the native birds have been released in the South Island's Kahurangi National Park, in an attempt to create a second population of the species in the wild.

"For the first time in a hundred years, we've been able to release takahe to a mainland site, a new mainland site," DOC Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki told 1 NEWS. 

A symbol of survival, there are now more than 300 takahe, with numbers increasing ten per cent a year.

"Until 1948, we actually thought Takahe had become extinct, and then they were rediscovered in the Murchison Mountains near Te Anau by Geoffrey Orbell and since then we've had this long running 70 year conservation programme to get them back on their feet," Mrs Toki explains.

But as they outgrow their only home in the wild, a second site's needed to secure their future.

So 18 birds were put on the flight of their lives on Tuesday, with a one-way ticket to the top of the South Island.

"We've translocated over 2600 species," Air New Zealand Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell says.

"But today was actually the first flight that was dedicated to one of those species."

Three takahe were taken to Pohara in Golden Bay for a formal welcome, where Ngai Tahu representatives handed over the birds to local Iwi.

Finally, the remaining birds joined the group in Gouland Downs, where the birds were released "on the count of three".

Mrs Toki says an ongoing predator control programme in the area will give the birds a fighting chance.

"They're these big, blue enormous dinosaurs with beaks like garden secateurs and claw the size of my hand. You can't not love a takahe".

It's hoped up to thirty breeding pairs will eventually move on in, giving visitors on the nearby Heaphy Track the chance to walk among the takahe.

Eighteen of the native birds have been released in the Kahurangi National Park. Source: 1 NEWS