Ever heard of a Tākahe before? Neither did we. But while we were in Auckland, we not only learned what they are, but we saw one, in real life, on the island paradise of Rotoroa.
A Tākahe is an extremely endangered bird native to New Zealand. There are only 300 left, and six of them live on Rotoroa Island. They are so endangered that most New Zealanders have never even seen a Tākahe before. So, seeing one outside of Auckland, on Rotoroa Island, is a rare treat.
Even though the island is only one hour away from mainland Auckland by ferry, we chose to fly there on - wait for it - a sea plane! None of us had ever flown on a sea plane before, so ticking that off our bucket list and having the opportunity to see Auckland from the skies was a win-win.
We flew with Auckland Sea Planes, which you pick up from the harbor on mainland Auckland. The views from the sky are, as you might imagine, beautiful. It’s a thrill to watch the city recede into the background and see the crystal blue waters dotted with islands ahead of you. The islands are lush and very green (and so many of them!), and Rotoroa stands out among them with her stunning bays and beaches.
The island is a wildlife sanctuary where a number of conservation efforts are put in place to help endangered native species, Tākahe included. Anyone can visit the island, and connect with nature. Four rangers act as the guardians of the island, living and working there full time to both welcome visitors and maintain the conservation efforts in place. Helen MacIntosh fired up the tracker they use to find the six Tākahe birds. On this day, we saw three of them, including a four week old baby.
"When I track the Tākahe, and I come across them and get to see them, I always find that I have to stop. I just stop and observe them.” Helen thinks they have a lot of personality, especially to some of the other birds on the island that can be opportunistic and cheeky.
“The little honking noise that they make and talk to each other, I think it's really sweet, and also, the way that they look after each other.”
To put this into context, New Zealand’s most famous bird, the Kiwi bird (not to be confused with the term Kiwi, as New Zealanders refer to themselves as) is considered endangered at 50,000 individuals left. At 300, the Tākahe are critically endangered.
“If you compare 50,000 to 300, both are endangered, but 300 is so tiny. We're very, very lucky to have 5 healthy adults and a couple of pairs that are breeding.” Helen said.
“I think it would be a tragedy to lose what is so unique to New Zealand, and I'm so grateful that there are good people like the Rotoroa Island Trust who are investing and making it a priority. So as a New Zealander, I feel really proud to be even a really small part of it.”
Among other threatened species, the island is a creche for kiwi, and is now one of a number of smaller sites collectively working with the Department of Conservation to help recover and ensure the Tākahe’s future. The work being done on the island is through the Rotoroa Island Trust, in partnership with Auckland Zoo.
Check out the other adventures we had during our time in Auckland, New Zealand!