“Extinct” Prehistoric Bird Making Remarkable Return To New Zealand Mountains

Usually extinction is forever as the saying goes, but we can be glad that it isn’t always true. Today’s example is the Takahe, an “extinct” prehistoric bird that is now being returned to New Zealand wilds, according to The Guardian.

Takahe, bird photography
Takahe are back from the verge of extinction and their range is expanding in New Zealand

According to Brittanica, the Takahe (Notornis mantelli) is a large, rare flightless bird. It is a striking blue and copper colored creature. Because it is flightless and lays its eggs on ground nests it was easy prey for invasive species. New Zealand lacked predatory land mammals until they were introduced by humans. The bird was declared extinct in 1898. But in 1948 a few were found in remote valleys. The “extinct” prehistoric bird has since begun recovering in numbers. Enough so, the Guardian says, that more than a dozen were recently released in an ancestral habitat on the island. An estimated 500 are believed to live on the South Island. The population appears to be growing at about 8 percent annually

view of river
New Zealand is a land of contrasts. The Takahe was rediscovered in a remote valley in 1948. Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

According to the paper:

“Eighteen of the birds were released in the Lake Whakatipu Waimāori valley, an alpine area of New Zealand’s South Island last week, on to slopes they had not been seen roaming for about 100 years. For Ngāi Tahu, the tribe to whom the lands belong, and who faced a long legal battle for their return, it is particularly significant, marking the return to the wild of the birds that their ancestors lived alongside, in lands that they had fought to regain.

Takahē are unusual creatures. Like a number of New Zealand birds, they evolved without native land mammals surrounding them, and adapted to fill the ecosystem niches that mammals would occupy. They are flightless, stand at around 50cm tall, and live in the mountains. Their presence in Aotearoa dates back to at least the prehistoric Pleistocene era, according to fossil remains.”

Taxidermy Mount - Thylacine, <em>Thylacinus cynocephalus</em> (Harris, 1808)
Taxidermy Mount – Thylacine, Thylacinus cynocephalus (Harris, 1808) by Photographer: Rodney Start is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 Efforts to revive the Tasmanian Tiger are underway but the effort is uphill. It is uncertain whether enough DNA exists to replicate the extinct marsupial predator.

Australians, meanwhile, are examining the possibility of “de-extincting” the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger. The last thylacines died in captivity in the 1930’s. Scientists hope their is enough DNA available from museum specimens to revive them with the help of their nearest surviving relative.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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