The story of the takahe’s return from near-extinction is a remarkable one. This rare flightless bird was once widespread throughout New Zealand – until habitat loss, deer and stoats took their toll. By the end of World War II, no one had seen a takahe in the wild in nearly half a century.
However, one Dr Geoffrey Orbell, a doctor from Invercargill, persevered with his belief that there were living birds in the Kiwi wilderness. In 1948, deep in the Murchison Mountains near Te Anau, Dr Orbell and his companions rediscovered the birds. It kickstarted efforts to nurse the species back to healthy numbers. It was thus fitting that I came face-to-face with the takahe in Te Anau.