7 x 5 inches
India ink on Bristol paper.
“Look! Do you see it??”
There, in the tall New Zealand grass, strode a young takahē; one of the rarest birds in the world. Only 260 were left. Nearby a shaggy parent about the size of a chicken herded its fuzzy black progeny into the shade.
My heart skittered with excitement. It was like coming across a dodo — living, breathing, wobbling around. Because just like the dodo, the takahē was utterly flightless and, in 1898, officially declared extinct.
Fast-forward to the mid-20h century and the species was, much to the astonishment of everyone, re-discovered in a remote mountainous area. Their numbers were few and dwindling, though, and by the 1950s it looked as though the archaic-looking birds would go extinct for real. So the remainder were scooped up and brought to several outlying islands, safe from non-native predators.
In 2013 my husband and I were exploring one such sanctuary: Tiri Tiri Matangi, situated offshore from Auckland. It was a veritable paradise, with lush, thick stands of pōhutukawa and puriri trees sheltering all sort of threatened birds.
We only caught a glimpse of the takahē, but I’ll always cherish the memory of that encounter. With continuing encroachment on their habitat, the future of this species remains hopeful yet somewhat unclear — fuzzy, as it were, as that little black chick.