I recently met Greg, a most unusual exile on Tiritiri Matangi, a small island off the coast of New Zealand. Greg is a Takahe. When the first Polynesians arrived in New Zealand, Takahes roamed all across both the North and South Islands. Unfortunately, the rats and dogs that they brought decimated the native birds, especially the flightless birds like Takahes, which had thrived on New Zealand for millenia without people or any other mammals preying upon them. The Takahes on the North Island went extinct. The related South Island Takahe disappeared after the last four specimens were collected in 1898. In 1948, Geoffrey Orbell mounted a search for the lost birds, and was able to rediscover a small population of about 250 Takahe in the remote Murchison Mountains.
In order to protect this population, conservationists have transported some of the Takahe, including Greg, to small predator free islands off the New Zealand coast, where they can live without interference from rats, dogs, possums, weasels, and other exotic predators that people have brought to New Zealand over the years. When I was on Tiritiri Matangi last month, I saw Greg and several of his kin, as well as a dozen other endangered bird species such as Kokako, Saddleback, Stitchbird, Brown Teal, and Rifleman that scientists have brought to the island for their own protection.
Now that I’m back in the States, I find myself thinking a lot about Greg the Takahe, as well as all the other bird exiles on Tiritiri Matangi. It brings to mind Nephi’s claim that the Lord remembers those upon the isles of the sea. As the creator of Takahes, Kokakos, Huis, and all the other native New Zealand birds, I wonder what the Lord thinks of how we have decimated their populations? I hope he would approve of our efforts to remember these birds, and to provide safe havens for them. I would like to imagine that he is inspiring many people with a vision of what New Zealand can be like again someday, if we actively work to remove the exotic mammals invaders that make it impossible for these birds to thrive, and work to restore New Zealand to its paradasiacal glory. What will New Zealand look like someday? Will Greg’s offspring and kin be free to roam over their ancestral homeland? Is restoring the Takahe and other native New Zealand birds to their former homelands part of the restoration of all things?