A prehistoric bird thought to be extinct is growing in numbers in New Zealand, with a new pair being released into a predator-free bird sanctuary.
Three-year-old female Waitaa and six-year-old male Bendigo joined two takahe already living in the Zealandia ecosanctuary.
The takahe is a large, flightless bird native to New Zealand and was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1948.
The two young birds will live in a pen near the sanctuary’s perimeter fence to settle in before they are let out to roam in a few days.
Waitaa and Bendigo arrived by plane from a Breeding Centre in the south of the country.
Sanctuary volunteer Scott Langdale told a local publication that it was an ‘incredibly exciting time’.
Takahe only breed once a year, raising one or two chicks and live for 16 to 18 years in the wild and 20 to 22 years at sanctuary sites.
As of 2021, there were only 440 takahe left in the world and birds are moved around the country to support the health and growth of the population.
Takahe once roamed across the South Island, but pressures from hunting, introduced predators, habitat destruction and competition for food led to their decline.
The rediscovery of the takahe launched New Zealand’s longest-running endangered species programme.
For more than 70 years, measures to ensure takahē are never again considered extinct have included pioneering conservation techniques for endangered species, captive breeding, island translocations and wild releases.