Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


The Takahē Love Triangle on Rotoroa Island



A carefully choreographed love match is taking place at Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf this week – all in the name of conservation.

Silberhorn, the matriarch of the takahē population at the wildlife sanctuary on Rotoroa Island is the subject of some match making with a new arrival Hawkeye, which is being flown up from Burwood Takahe Centre, Fiordland, in the hope they will mate and help save the endangered species.

Silberhorn, with chick (Teina) on Rotoroa Island. Photo Credit: James Gow.

The takahē (Porphyrio hochstetteri) was thought to be extinct until 70 years ago when some were discovered in the Murchison Mountains. With careful management the population has now grown to 376 (it’s increasing by 10% per year) and genetic diversity is paramount to the species survival.

It is a large, brightly coloured flightless bird that weighs up to three kilograms, with a bright red conical bill.

Because of its endangered status, the Department of Conservation’s Takahē Recovery Programme manages the species as one big population. It monitors each bird carefully, moving them around safe locations throughout the country and annually giving each takahē pair an RX value, a ‘suitability value’ based on their relatedness and relative rarity.

“The purpose is to increase genetic diversity, primarily to make the species more robust and adaptable in the future to things like climate change or disease." says Phil Marsh (Takahe Recovery Programme Secure Sites Ranger, Department of Conservation) Silberhorn, a bossy “ruler of the roost” at Rotoroa is one of very few offspring from her parents lines, so is considered valuable. She is a fertile breeder having mothered three chicks over the past three years– hence the desire to introduce her to a potential new partner to amplify her genes.

But the arrival of Hawkeye will mean she will be forced to split with her current mate Teichelmann.

“The team at Rotoroa Island is absolutely delighted Silberhorn has been identified as such as valuable member of the takahē community,” says Rotoroa Island ecologist Jo Ritchie.

“We feel really privileged to be part of the Takahē Recovery Programme and we can’t wait to welcome Hawkeye – which means we will potentially have three breeding pairs."

The Department of Conservation’s Takahē Recovery Programme Manager, Phil Marsh says Hawkeye is one of Burwood’s favourite takahē, a big male bird with a quieter nature and a large appetite. He says they regularly split up a mating pair for genetic reasons and the birds, tend to adjust.

“We’ve managed to complete a number of these shifts in the past with success. It may take a little time for Hawkeye to settle in, and for Teichelman and Silberhorn to adjust to being apart. But we are hopeful Hawkeye and Silberhorn will establish a relationship quickly and get into breeding mode in time to produce a chick(s) this season.” he says.

And there is an added bonus for Hawkeye in his new home at Rotoroa Island. One of his offspring Mulgrew was also transferred to Rotoroa Island last year – so as well as a potential new romance – there will be a father and son reunion as well.



Rotoroa Island (82.5 hectares) is a predator free island and wildlife sanctuary located in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. It opened to the public for the first time in over 100 years in February 2011.

Owned by The Salvation Army and formerly run as New Zealand’s first and longest running addiction treatment centre, Rotoroa has a unique social and spiritual history.

Its legacy as a place of recovery and renewal continues today; once a sanctuary for people, Rotoroa is now a sanctuary for some of New Zealand’s most endangered species as the newest wildlife sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf.

Rotoroa Island is one of few New Zealand sites where the public can see a takahē. The island is just one hour by ferry from downtown Auckland, with Fullers360 Experiences and Cruises.


New Zealand’s South Island takahē (Porphyrio hochstetteri) is a large flightless bird (can weigh up to 3kg!) found only in New Zealand, and a real conservation icon and survivor. The current official population is 376 (and growing by 10% each year) -­ amazing because until 70 years ago it was thought they were extinct.

Rotoroa Island is privileged to be part of the Takahē Recovery Programme, one of ten smaller sanctuary sites collectively working with DoC to help recover and ensure the takahē's future. We are able to be part of it because the island underwent massive transformation and is now predator free wildlife sanctuary.

The island is like a creche for the takahē -­ we nurture the chicks in a safe predator free environment. But we are just guardians -­ when they reach a certain age (young adulthood) they need to return to a bigger gene pool in the South Island to ensure genetic diversity to keep the species alive.

As one of NZ’s rarest species, instead of being managed in sub species (like kiwi), takahē are managed as one big population.

“We estimate the relatedness and relative rarity, to determine most suitable takahe pairings. The RX value is a value given to a pair based on these factors. The purpose is to increase genetic diversity, primarily to make the species more robust and adaptable in the future to things like climate change or disease." Phil Marsh (Takahe Recovery Programme Secure Sites Ranger, Department of Conservation)


The RX value is on a scale of 1-­7 (1 being good, 7 being unsuitable for breeding). It combines mean inbreeding coefficients, relatedness, and how common the bloodline of each bird in the pair is. An RX1 or RX2 will always be an unrelated pair with uncommon bloodlines so it is critical to have these birds in a safe site and ideally encourage double/triple clutching.

We have no RX7 pairs on Rotoroa Island but we do have RX6 in the current Silberhorn/Teichelman pairing. These are birds that will make RX6 with pretty much whoever they are paired with. Their RX value has lowered in value (increased in number) because Silberhorn is one of very few offspring from her parents lines. Teichelman has a number of siblings, some of which are now breeding, and has less valuable parents to begin with, yet Silberhorn’s line is quite underrepresented. The calculation is telling Takahe Recovery team that we need to amplify Silberhorn’s genes by breeding with another rare bird, not a common one.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


National: National Backs Businesses With $10k JobStart

National will provide a $10,000 cash payment to businesses that hire additional staff as part of our commitment to keeping New Zealanders in jobs, National Party Leader Todd Muller and Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith have announced. Our JobStart ... More>>


DIY Law: Government Exempts Some Home Improvements From Costly Consents

Homeowners, builders and DIYers will soon have an easier time making basic home improvements as the Government scraps the need for consents for low-risk building work such as sleep-outs, sheds and carports – allowing the construction sector ... More>>


Media Awards: The New Zealand Herald Named Newspaper Of The Year, Website Of The Year At Voyager Media Awards

The New Zealand Herald has been labelled a “powerhouse news operation” as it claims the two biggest prizes – Newspaper of the Year and Website of the Year – along with many individual awards at the 2020 Voyager Media Awards Website of the ... More>>


ASB Bank: ASB Takes The Lead Again With New Low Home Loan Interest Rate

ASB has moved again to support its customers, cutting a number of home loan rates, including the two-year special rate to a new low of 2.69% p.a. Craig Sims, ASB executive general manager Retail Banking says the reduced rate will be welcome news for many ... More>>


Nathan Hoturoa Gray: The Problems With Testing And Case Statistics For Covid-19

To begin to understand disease transmission in a country requires adequate testing of your population with properly vetted, accurate tests. As the world struggles to find what 'adequate percentage' of the population is necessary, (estimates predict ... More>>


RNZ: Fletcher Building To Lay Off 1000 Staff In New Zealand

The construction company will cut around 10 percent of its workforce as it struggles with the fallout from Covid-19. More>>


Can Pay, Won't Pay: Cashflow Moves Urged

Government Ministers are asking significant private enterprises to adopt prompt payment practices in line with the state sector, as a way to improve cashflow for small businesses. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Why We Should Legally Protect The Right To Work From Home

For understandable reasons, the media messaging around Level Two has been all about “freedom” and “celebration”, but this is not necessarily going to be a universal experience. When it comes to workplace relations, Level Two is just as likely to ... More>>


Auckland Airport: Thousands Of Kiwis Travelling For Queen’s Birthday Weekend

Confidence in domestic travel is beginning to steadily ramp up, with thousands of Kiwis travelling within New Zealand for Queen’s Birthday.
Nearly 400 flights will be operating to and from Auckland Airport over the long weekend... More>>


Science Media Centre: Understanding 5G Concerns – Expert Q&A

Recent attacks on cell phone towers have brought concerns over the rollout of 5G technology into sharp relief.
While scientific research has consistently shown that the technology does not adversely affect human health, public concerns about its impact have spread around the world, fueled in part by growing misinformation online. The SMC asked experts to comment... More>>


Trade: Record Monthly Surplus As Imports Dive

Imports in April 2020 had their biggest fall since October 2009, resulting in a monthly trade surplus of $1.3 billion, Stats NZ said today. “This is the largest monthly trade surplus on record and the annual goods trade deficit is the lowest ... More>>


Media Blues: Stuff Chief Executive Buys Company For $1

Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher has purchased Stuff from its Australian owners Nine Entertainment for $1.
The chief executive was returning the company to New Zealand ownership, with the sale is expected to be completed by 31 May.
"Our plan is to transition the ownership of Stuff to give staff a direct stake in the business as shareholders," Boucher said in a statement.... More>>


RNZ: Bar Reopening Night 'much, Much Quieter'

Pubs and bars are reporting a sluggish first day back after the lockdown, with the fear of going out, or perhaps the joy of staying home, thought to be a reason for the low numbers. More>>


Stats NZ: New Zealand’s Population Passes 5 Million

New Zealand's resident population provisionally reached 5 million in March 2020, Stats NZ said today. More>>

NIWA: Seven Weeks Of Clearing The Air Provides Huge Benefits: Scientist

Seven weeks of lockdown has provided evidence of how pollution can vanish overnight with benefits for the environment and individuals, says NIWA air quality scientist Dr Ian Longley. Dr Longley has been monitoring air quality in Auckland, Wellington ... More>>


Government: Milestone In Cash Flow Support To SMEs

A significant package of tax reforms will be pushed through all stages in Parliament today to throw a cash flow lifeline to small businesses. More>>