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Beloved Zealandia takahē Nio dies, aged 19
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

Beloved Zealandia takahē Nio dies, aged 19

It is with deep sadness that the team at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne confirms beloved takahē Nio died over the weekend.   

Nio, 19, was taken to Wildbase Hospital at Massey University on Wednesday 27 March for further observation following a routine health check in the sanctuary where her weight was found to be below average. 

Vet staff at Wildbase Hospital carried out a full health check to understand Nio’s condition but sadly she deteriorated quickly over the weekend, and she died on Monday. Nio was very old for a takahē, and at this stage it looks to be age-related deterioration. 

Nio, along with her partner Orbell, had called Zealandia home since 2017 when they both moved from Mana Island. The pair have been a treasured part of the ecosanctuary and community over this time. Thousands of students and visitors have had the chance to see them up close and to connect with birds which are normally only found in mountainous and inaccessible places. 

“Nio was an amazing individual with a gentle and curious nature; she had a real impact on the staff, volunteers and visitors who interacted with her daily,” reflects Zealandia’s Conservation Lead Ranger, Ellen Irwin.  

“Whenever I was with her, I constantly marvelled at how lucky I was to be near such a rare and special species. She also had the first and only takahē chick successfully hatched so far at Zealandia.”  

With approximately 500 birds left, every takahē matters. Nio and Orbell have made a significant contribution towards growing the population by producing five chicks together, with their last one – Te Āwhiorangi – hatching at Zealandia in 2018 and joining the wider breeding programme for the endangered species.   

“Watching Nio raise Te Āwhiorangi from a wee fluffy chick to a nearly fully grown takahē was incredibly special and one of the highlights of my time at Zealandia,” says Ellen.  

Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne has a close relationship with Te Kōhanga The Nest at Wellington Zoo, and the takahē at Zealandia receive regular checks to monitor their health as they age. These checks ensure the rare birds can be given the best care, and any problems can be identified early. It was during one of these regular checks that it was discovered that Nio was underweight. 

Ellen continues, “While Nio was an elderly bird, nothing prepares you for the loss of a precious member of the whānau. Takahē typically live for 16–18 years in the wild and 20–22 years at sanctuary sites. Her partner Orbell, who still lives at the sanctuary, is currently 23.” 

“Takahē have a strong pair bond, so we will be keeping a close eye on Orbell and are working with the national Takahē Recovery Team to ensure that he is well cared for during this period.”  

Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne has nearly 140,000 visitors annually and is a valuable advocacy site for this nationally vulnerable species. There is limited breeding habitat in Aotearoa for these birds due to predators and habitat loss, and by looking after aging or infertile birds Zealandia also frees up a prime breeding habitat for birds that can breed. 

The takahē population is managed at a national level by the Takahē Recovery Team and Ngāi Tahu, and birds are moved around the country to improve the health and growth of the population. In August 2023, Zealandia welcomed a young pair of takahē, Waitaa and Bendigo, to the sanctuary, bringing its takahē residents to four at the time.  

“Nio was an amazing advocate for her species, bringing so much delight to nearly half a million visitors. She has made a huge contribution to raising awareness of both takahē and their story of near extinction and has paved the way for other manu (birds) to continue her legacy here at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne. She will be dearly missed by our Zealandia community.”  

The team at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is incredibly grateful for the support received from many to provide the best home possible for takahē over the years. This includes hundreds of staff and volunteers, the Takahē Recovery Team, Ngāi Tahu, mana whenua Taranaki Whānui ki te Ūpoko o te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Wellington Zoo Te Nukuao Tūroa o Te Whanganui a Tara and Massey University’s Wildbase. 

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