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Prehistoric takahē birds who were believed to be extinct return to nature reserve in New Zealand

Conservationists consider it a massive success as 18 takahē birds get released into their natural habitat located on Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand.

Prehistoric takahē birds who were believed to be extinct return to nature reserve in New Zealand
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Department of Conservation

Many species of animals and birds have gone extinct over time. Natural causes, poaching and unsuitable changes in the environment have led to creatures like the dodo, Tasmanian tiger and many more disappearing from the face of the earth. But this year, conservationists rejoiced as 18 takahē birds were released into the wilds of a nature reserve on Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand.

 Image Source: Getty Images | Mike Hewitt
Representational Image Source: Getty Images | Mike Hewitt

Takahē birds were declared extinct ages ago but their surprising return made conservationists and bird lovers hope to see their population flourish again. This rediscovered species has a long way to go as it begins its third separate breeding in the wild. The flightless bird is considered a symbol of New Zealand’s unique prehistoric past. They evolved on the island when there were no mammals, reports Good News Network


As the predatory mammals arrived, the population of these birds started thinning. "They're almost prehistoric looking," Tūmai Cassidy, a member of the Ngāi Tahu indigenous group who stewards the land around Lake Wakatipu, told The Guardian. "Very broad and bold." Cassidy described the bird's body shape to be almost spherical with orange-tinted legs. The Maori people of the country have a history of gathering the feathers of this bird to be sewn into cloaks and the sound they made can finally be heard on the lakeside regions after ages.

"Someone once called us, the land of the birds that walk," said Tā Tipene O’Regan, an 87-year-old Ngāi Tahu member. "There are few things more beautiful than to watch these large birds galloping back into tussock lands where they haven’t walked for over a century." After getting declared formally extinct in 1898 after their small population was destroyed by the arrival of European settlers and animals like stoats, cats, ferrets and rats which they brought along on ships, the bird's population has been growing at the rate of 8% per year since it's rediscovery in 1948.

At first, conservationists incubated the eggs of these birds artificially and even wore sock puppets with the birds’ distinctive red beaks while feeding the babies that hatched. "Trapping of stoats, ferrets and feral cats has knocked down predator numbers," DOC Takahē recovery operations manager Deidre Vercoe explained. "Continuing to keep them low is crucial." The organization hopes to release another 7 birds in October and up to 10 juvenile takahē early next year.

"After decades of hard work to increase the takahē population, it’s rewarding to now be focusing on establishing more wild populations, but it comes with challenges – establishing new wild native species populations can take time and success is not guaranteed," Vercoe said.




Similarly, in 2022, a long-lost bird species called the black-naped pheasant-pigeon was captured by scientists. This bird was believed to be extinct for the past 140 years and this marked the first documented sighting of the elusive bird since 1882. This species of bird was native to the steep forests on the slopes of Papua New Guinea's Fergusson Island, per Live Science. "It wasn't until after we returned to the U.S. that we realized that the species hadn't been observed since 1882," Jordan Boersma, a researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, told the outlet.


Papua New Guinea National Museum and the American Bird Conservancy provided a team of scientists with the necessary financial air for a second expedition to Fergusson Island to look for the black-naped pheasant pigeons which they finally discovered in September 2022. "At that point, the bird kind of felt like a mythical creature because we'd been chasing it so long," Boersma said.  According to the studies of the Natural History Museum, birds are found to have evolved from a species of carnivorous dinosaurs called theropods which belonged to the same group as Tyrannosaurus Rex and the oldest bird fossils are about 150 million years old. 


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