Natural exploring the reserve. PHOTO/PUKAHA NATIONAL WILDLIFE CENTRE/TARA SWAN

EMMA BROWN
emma.brown@age.co.nz

One of the characters of Pukaha National Wildlife Reserve has moved on to the predator-free bush in the sky.

Natural, Pukaha’s 19-year-old male takahe, was euthanised on May 17, after breaking his leg.

He was sent to Massey University in Palmerston North for surgery on the injury, but the implant used did not hold because of his brittle bone.

Natural arrived at Pukaha from Mana Island in 2008 to join another male, Bud, and live out his Takahe life in the comfort of the reserve.

When Bud passed away in 2017, at the ripe old Takahe age of 22, female Fomi arrived and it looked like love at first sight.

Wildlife team leader Jess Flamy said: “We put a fence to separate them time to get used to each other, but he managed to climb it to be with her.”

Natural’s favourite thing to do was looking after Fomi and grooming her, Flamy said.

He could be seen enthusiastically running from one side of the enclosure to the other with pieces of dry grass and fern to make the nest ready for breeding season.

“Natural was a dedicated male and was taking his job really seriously,” Flamy said. “Unfortunately, the eggs never hatched.”

He also had a lighter side.

“He loved lying flat on the ground with his wings open to enjoy the sun, just to make us worried and check if he was okay.”

Flamy said Natural was part of the Pukaha family and he would be missed.

A small karakia was held for him yesterday.

But Fomi will not be without company for long.

Pukaha is now awaiting the arrival in the next few weeks of Tuatahi, another male takahe, who has been retired from the breeding programme at Burwood Bush Takahe Rearing Centre.