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Over the past week, Bushy Park Tarapuruhi in Whanganui has welcomed tiny new residents from Taranaki Maunga, thanks to the generosity of local hapū Puketapu, Pukerangiora and Ngāti Tawhirikura, all of the iwi Te Atiawa. 

The predator-free sanctuary, a partnership between Forest & Bird, Bushy Park Trust, and members of local iwi Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi (Tamahereroto, Ngāti Pukeko, and Ngāti Maika hapū), is honoured to provide a new home for titipounamu rifleman, an ancient species of wren found only in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

Kura Niwa, from Pukerangiora hapū, said it was the second time that titipounamu had been moved from the maunga in recent years to help establish a population elsewhere. 

“A decade ago, we would never have thought we’d be leading a process of taurima (adoption) for manu, so we are thrilled our titipounamu population is doing so well that we are able to undertake this tikanga. We look forward to connecting more with our whānau, Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi, and seeing how the manu go in their new kāinga (home).” 

Danny Broughton, from Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi, says the relationship between Bushy Park Tarapuruhi and Ngaa Haapu o Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi is one of fostering and understanding.  

“Kaupapa such as manu translocations gives us a common purpose to work together and achieve. A kaupapa that requires respect of culture, processes and above all, the best for the manu, and ultimately, our ngaahere.” 

The tiny birds are being moved in small groups from a source site called Project Mounga and released into their new home at Bushy Park Tarapuruhi. Each bird has been gifted a name by members of Taranaki hapū. 

Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive, Nicola Toki, says it is a delight to see the titipounamu flitting through the canopy at Bushy Park. 

“Providing a home for these wee birds has required a careful and concerted effort by many partners and experts. We’re extremely grateful for the support we’ve received to make this hapū-to-hapū project a reality as we welcome these special ambassadors from Taranaki to their new home.”  

Kevin Parker from Parker Conservation, the translocation specialist leading the 12-person catching team, says the timing around this project relied on the availability of birds and the weather.  

“Catching is always weather dependent as we cannot work in rain or high wind and this week has been no exception. Our top priority, as always, is to minimise stress on these birds.” 

The titipounamu are in good company as Bushy Park has welcomed toutouwai North Island robin, tīeke saddleback, and hihi stitchbird, translocations previously – and a pōpokotea whitehead translocation just last year.  

“Bringing these birds back to their ancestral home at Bushy Park Tarapuruhi helps us to restore the missing pieces of the ecosystem in an important habitat site,” says Ms Toki.  

“It’s a credit to the many volunteers – contributing between 500-600 hours a month – as well as input and advice from all involved that we can provide a safe predator-free environment for titipounamu and other 'at risk' species, to not only survive but to thrive and repopulate the ngāhere.”  

Bushy Park Sanctuary Manager Mandy Brooke adds: “The toutouwai and tīeke populations have been so successful, we have been able to translocate some to start populations in other places – it would be wonderful if our new titipounamu population is equally successful in breeding.” 

The titipounamu is New Zealand’s smallest bird (even smaller than our 2022 Bird of the Year, the pīwauwau rock wren!). At just under 7 grams, it is comparable in size to a golf ball. Mana whenua refer to titipounamu as messengers to the gods, more specifically as one of the messengers of Tāne, god of the forest. Titipounamu pairs bond for life and their high-pitched, buzzing call is at a frequency many people cannot hear. 

Link to photos of the translocation here
Read more about Bushy Park Tarapuruhi 
Read more about the titipounamu rifleman 

Bushy Park Tarapuruhi would like to acknowledge and thank Horizons Regional Council, WWF-New Zealand and The Tindall Foundation and for providing the funding for this translocation. 

The Bushy Park Tarapuruhi titipounamu translocation is part of Forest & Bird’s year of centennial celebrations.

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