Four Critically Endangered Takahe Killed in New Zealand Cull

It was sadly reported today in New Zealand that during an authorised cull of overly abundant pukekos (Porphyrio porphyrio) on Motutapu Island reserve four critically endangered and somewhat closely appearing takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri) were also shot. Takahe represent an ancient lineage of rail that colonised New Zealand much earlier than pukekos, and like the New Zealand storm petrel are one of the few species to come back from the dead, having been rediscovered in the Murchison mountains in 1948 by dedicated wildlife biologist Dr Geoffrey Orbell. Today they have been translocated to many offshore islands to ensure their safety from predation, the number one cause of their decline.

Pukeko (left) and Takahe (right) illustrating similarities and differences (Photo by Jim Eagle)

Following the recent controversy surrounding Cecil the lion, it seems animals being in the ‘wrong’ place at the ‘wrong’ time has again created serious conservation conflict. As human populations continue to encroach on wild places and modify environments such human-wildlife conflicts will only continue to happen. In this case the cull was authorised by the New Zealand Department of Conservation using local hunting association volunteers. Pest control of overly abundant species, whether native or introduced, often implements lethal control techniques. Anyone choosing to kill a target, whether for hunting or pest control, or any other reason, must always act in the most responsible way possible, as the taking of another individual’s life should never be done lightly. Having just earned the right to bear arms with my own hunting licence I am keenly aware of this, there is no implicit joy in taking another animal’s life.

Dr. Orbell (right) brought the Takahe back from extinction in 1948
Dr. Orbell (right) brought the Takahe back

Read All Posts by James Russell

Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.
  • Bill Goody

    This is really interesting… keep it up guy!

  • robhux

    This tells me a lot about the skill and mentality of the people who are entrusted to slow down the rate of extinction of NZ forest and fauna. Join in with Govt policy, farming and forestry, crazy policy that wont let recreational pig hunters remove said out of the Waitakere Ranges and so on and what do we have.
    Yep-90% + grass and concrete desert with a high standard of living and less than 10% ability to identify your target especially on Motutapu it seems.

  • I agree Rob, the issue here seems related to DOCs chronic underfunding forcing them to use volunteer hunters on Motutapu. In contrast the professional pig hunter program by Auckland Council in Waitakeres was a huge success.

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