We spent our last couple days in New Zealand reconnecting with our friends Kathryn and Glen in Ponsonby. Lynda, Kathryn's sister, whom we first met when we lived in England in 1989-1990, even came down from Lang's Bay for a farewell dinner. It meant a great deal to us to be able to spend just a little more time with our friends.
Kathryn and Lynda had recommended a walk for us at a nature reserve when we saw them earlier, and we were finally able to squeeze that in before we left. The reserve is known for its bird life.
From our first visit to New Zealand years ago, I have always liked the pukekos (pronounced poo-keck-kos by some or more like poo-key-kos by others), funny little birds with long legs that, although they can fly, often run away in the most comical fashion.
|See a video of some pukekos running here.|
Pukekos breed prolifically in New Zealand, and because they can fly, they have an advantage avoiding predators, a facility not enjoyed by the birds we were most hoping to see at the reserve, the takahes (pronounced talk-a-hees). We were lucky! We did see them!
Although they bear some resemblance to pukekos, the takahes are bigger, have shorter legs in proportion to their bodies, and they can't fly. We could walk right up to these guys, so no wonder they are so endangered! The reserve has built high fences that extend underground to protect them from weasels and stoats and from domestic dogs and cats.
Once thought to be extinct, the takahe was rediscovered in 1948. Today, in spite of a vigorous conservation effort, there numbers are still limited. When we reported to our friends that we had encountered three of them, they said, "Oh, you were lucky! There are only 11 in the whole reserve!"
As of 2015, there were only 300 takahes in all of New Zealand, so we felt privileged. A rara avis indeed.
We felt sad to say goodbye to New Zealand, one of the most beautiful countries on earth, and especially to say farewell to dear friends on both the North and South Island, unsure of when we may get together again. Next stop: Singapore.
I would be remiss not to mention the economic problems that the small dairy farmers are having in New Zealand today. The concentration of dairies by agribusiness, a trade deal between China and Australia, and a drop in dairy prices have come together to create a severe problems for the smaller farms. We saw evidence of this downturn throughout the country, highlighted here in a local paper: