Endangered saddlebacks back on mainland after 100 years

Huirapa Upoko (chief) David Ellison, of Karitane, gets up close to a South Island saddleback, one...
Huirapa Upoko (chief) David Ellison, of Karitane, gets up close to a South Island saddleback, one of 34 released into their new home within the Orokonui Ecosanctuary yesterday. Photo Gerard O'Brien.
The South Island saddleback has returned to the mainland with 34 birds released into their new home within the Orokonui Ecosanctuary yesterday.

Eight of the 34 nationally-endangered birds brought from Ulva Island on Wednesday were released into the forest yesterday morning following a welcome ceremony led by Huirapa Upoko (chief) David Ellison, of Karitane,.

The rest were released deeper into the bush later in the day.

Another six birds would join them soon.

Protected within the ecosanctuary's predator-proof fence, the saddleback, or tieke, will be able to live on the South Island mainland for the first time in 100 years.

It is thought the birds, which are banded, are unlikely to fly far from the enclosure as they are not long-distance flyers and prefer the forest to open spaces.

They join the kaka and jewelled gecko already released into the ecosanctuary.

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