A pair of flightless birds flew south yesterday, to Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin, where they became instant media stars.
The takahe, named Quammen and Te Hoiere, travelled by boat, car and plane to Dunedin from Maud Island in the northwest reaches of the Marlborough Sounds before taking their first tentative steps into a special enclosure at the ecosanctuary about 5pm.
Under the watchful eye of media and about 25 invited guests, the birds toured the home where they will stay until they are released into the wider ecosanctuary on Sunday.
Ecosanctuary operations manager Chris Baillie said it had taken a long time and much work to get the birds to the ecosanctuary, and to see them arrive was like a "dream come true".
She was sure the birds, which were both known to be "very" friendly, would be readily seen by the public and would quickly become a popular attraction.
Department of Conservation coastal Otago area manager Robin Thomas said their arrival was an amazing example of what could be achieved by partnerships like that between the ecosanctuary, Doc, local iwi, and Mitre 10 (which sponsors the takahe recovery programme), which had brought the birds south.
It was a great opportunity for people to get up close to the birds and understand the significance of the recovery programme, he said.
Doc takahe ranger Martin Genet, from Te Anau, who picked up the birds from Dunedin Airport and took them to the ecosanctuary, said having the birds so close to Dunedin and accessible was a golden opportunity for the public, as they were usually only found in Fiordland or on islands where people could not see them so easily.
Ms Baillie said Te Hoiere was a real "lady's man", but none of his six partners had managed to produce a fertile egg. Quammen had a mate for eight and a-half years, but none of their 18 eggs hatched.
"So now they are retired from Maud Island ... to become ambassadors for takahe conservation."
A day of events for the public, including visits to the enclosure, will precede the release of the birds into the wider ecosanctuary at 1.20pm on Sunday.