Love is in the air for the rare takahē, with the number of breeding pairs topping 100 for the first time since conservation efforts began more than 70 years ago.
Department of Conservation senior takahē ranger Glen Greaves said the number had more than doubled in just a decade.
“This is significant, as the number of breeding pair is the most accurate measure of population heath. A total population number can give false security, if there is a significant age or sex bias,” he said.
The official takahē population now numbers 347 birds, up 13 percent in the last year – the highest growth rate on record.
The Takahē Recovery Programme team was “thrilled” with the results, Mr Greaves said.
“Like race horses, all takahē share their birthday. October 1 marks the beginning of the takahē calendar year. This is when the previous summer’s chicks are a year old and can be included into the total population count.”
Ngāi Tahu representative at the Takahē Recovery Group Sandra Cook said witnessing the success of the programme was “both humbling and inspirational”.
“Takahē are a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu and our aspiration is to see them, once again, running free throughout their traditional range.
“The dedication and determination of DOC staff, to the recovery of takahē as a species, is paying dividends and they are to be congratulated.”
The species has recently moved two steps away from extinction, according to the New Zealand Threat Classification System.
Mr Greaves said new sanctuary sites to house the takahē had doubled in the past 10 years.
“Now the focus is on creating new wild populations in areas where takahē once existed, with the reintroduction of takahē in Kahurangi National Park planned for early next year and the drive for a Predator Free NZ by 2050.”