Happy Takahē Awareness Month!
ZEALANDIA is proud to work with the Department of Conservation Takahē Recovery Programme which aims to boost takahē numbers living in their natural habitats, and for the species to be treasured as a national icon. Over the years, ZEALANDIA has been fortunate enough to host six South Island takahē as part of this programme. These manu/birds have acted as advocates for their species and have helped spread awareness to the thousands of visitors who have passed through ZEALANDIA over the years.
As part of being a BLAKE Department of Conservation Takahē Ambassador, ZEALANDIA volunteer and previous Senior Youth Ambassador, Elizabeth Werner recently got to spend some time down South with the species.
A bit about who I am:
Kia ora e te whānau, ko Elizabeth Werner ahau.
I’m an upcoming Science Communicator. Protecting and raising awareness for our native and endemic species in Aotearoa is important to me, because we have so many unique species that cannot be found anywhere else on our planet.
I am studying for a BSc at Victoria University of Wellington, doing a double major in Ecology and Biodiversity with Environmental Studies.
I’m an enthusiastic trapper who loves to protect our native taonga; I am an active committee member of Pest Free Tawa and the founder of Pest Free Tawa College. I began trapping when I was 15, back when backyard trapping in urban areas wasn’t popular.
My link to ZEALANDIA:
I knew ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary as Karori Wildlife Sanctuary back when I was a kid; before it went through a name change. My parents have been taking me to ZEALANDIA since I was in a pram, and we visited most weekends.
Fast forward to 2018 and I was selected to be a ZEALANDIA Senior Youth Ambassador, in this position I was fortunate to contribute to conservation. I went to local events with support from the ecosanctuary to raise awareness about humane trapping, and educated conservation groups on how to be youth inclusive. I learnt and achieved so much through ZEALANDIA’s Youth Programme.
After this I signed up to be a Visitor Experience Volunteer at the ecosanctuary. I enjoy giving mini talks on takahē, tuatara, and kākā, and on top of this I monitor kiwi pukupuku. I have so many fond memories of the ecosanctuary and it’s a joy to share this with visitors.
Let's talk about takahē:
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary > Burwood Takahē Centre > Murchison Mountains
In March this year, I was extremely lucky to go to the Burwood Takahē Centre for a week. Burwood Takahē Centre is pretty much a wild bird bootcamp. Neo and Orbell’s chick, Te Awhiorangi, went there to learn how to live in the wild. Te Awhiorangi now lives in a wild takahē population on Murchison Mountains, since his graduation from Burwood Takahē Centre. So, it felt very special working at Burwood Takahē Centre because I met Te Awhiorangi at ZEALANDIA when he was still a large fluffy chick with a black and white beak.
During my time down at Burwood Takahē Centre, as a BLAKE Department of Conservation Takahē Ambassador, I carried out three takahē health checks (all individuals were healthy), helped with the translocation of 15 takahē, supplementary fed takahē families with gorgeous chicks, and checked near to a 100 DOC150 and DOC200 traps! It was a great week, and I just happened to be there for so many special events!
Memorable moments at Burwood Takahē Centre:
First: Waking up every morning to a takahē dawn chorus was incredible; they sound almost like seabirds, which is very interesting considering they’re forest birds. Watching the sun rise while listening to the takahē calls was a treat. I am definitely missing the takahē dawn chorus.
Second: I had a very close encounter with a local kārearea while I was rebaiting a trap line. One of the kārearea parents sat on a log a few metres from me and called very loudly (they were looking after offspring). It was very impressive and I was careful to give it enough space so it wouldn’t dive bomb me. This encounter made the trapping seem extra special because I was not only protecting takahē but also kārearea.
Third: I enjoyed observing each takahē I met. They all have different personalities; some are shy, others curious, many were friendly, and there was a lovely family made up of six takahē (two parents and four chicks) that greeted me every time I entered their pen. Seeing the relationship between takahē family members was memorable; for instance one of the pens at Burwood Takahē Centre had a son and father and the father always checked on his son, and they went for walks together around the pen. Takahē are such cool birds!
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary has helped me connect with nature. In 2010 I met Sirocco the kākāpō for the first time. I would have been around nine years old at the time and ever since then I knew I wanted to work in conservation. Protecting our rare species has been my mindset since primary school, and that is what I want to dedicate my life to. Volunteering at ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary, helping my community strive towards a predator free environment, and helping out with the mahi at Burwood Takahē Centre have all been important events and steps in my life to becoming a science communicator.
You can also check out my Radio New Zealand interview with presenter Jesse Mulligan. We spoke about takahē and their recovery while I was working in a takahē pen. You can listen to the RNZ interview here.