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50 Years Ago

Flightless birds face extinction

Excerpt from the January 11, 1964 issue of Science News Letter

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The government of New Zealand is desperately trying to save what is left of its world-famous flightless birds. The man-sized moa has been extinct for two centuries, and the flightless huia for one. Other species, including the remaining varieties of huia, the kiwi, the flightless rail, the takahe and the kakapo are all on the verge of disappearance.

Of these, the kiwi is perhaps the best known, but it is the takahe and the kakapo that are in the greatest danger of extinction. These two birds live in the still-wild Fiordland in the southwest of the South Island. Both are virtually defenseless against predators.

UPDATE

New Zealand’s flightless birds have limped through the last few decades, but conservation efforts have had some success. After transplantation to a predator-free island, the kakapo population increased from a low of 50 in the 1990s to about 125 today. Likewise, there are now more than 250 transplanted takahe. Many are successfully breeding in their new homes.

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