Man who rediscovered the takahe, nonagenarian

The man who refused to believe the takahe was extinct died in Dunedin on Tuesday at the age of 98.

It was assumed, when Dr. Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the takahe in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains in 1948, that the bird had been extinct for over 50 years. Dr. Orbell described the magical moment this way: “Suddenly I saw in a clearing in the snow grass a bird with a bright red beak and a blue and green colouring. And there, no more than twenty metres away from us stood a living Notornis, the bird that was supposed to be extinct.”

I saw takahe at Mt Bruce. It is a wonderful place to visit. The birds are about a large chicken in size.
Takahe Maungaclick to enlarge

The Associated Press, Published: August 15, 2007

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand doctor Geoffrey Orbell, who rediscovered a flightless bird that was believed extinct almost 60 years ago, has died in the southern city of Dunedin, his family said Wednesday. He was 98.

No one had seen a live takahe — a unique blue-green, hen-like bird with a bright red bill — since the late 1890s, when Orbell and three companions found a small colony in Fiordland on South Island in November 1948. The discovery stunned the world of ornithology and made front-page news across the globe.

Geoffrey Buckland Orbell was born Oct. 7, 1908, at Pukeuri on South Island… He graduated in medicine and chemistry in 1934, then went to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London where he received a Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery… Orbell didn’t retire from medicine until he was 70….

Almost 300 takahe (Notornis mantelli) now live in Fiordland and other sanctuaries thanks to careful husbandry and breeding programs…. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II made him a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1953

Regnum: Animalia • Phylum: Chordata • Classis: Aves • Ordo: Gruiformes • Familia: Rallidae • Genus: Porphyrio

Geoffrey Orbell, a doctor who was happiest in the outdoors where he found the “extinct” takahe in 1948, has died in Dunedin just a few weeks short of his 99th birthday. Orbell was a man of many talents – ophthalmologist, cabinet maker, boat and house builder, skilled shot (founder of the NZ Deerstalkers Association), tramper, fisherman and local body politician. But above all he will be remembered for his rediscovery of the takahe, the unique and flightless blue-green, hen-like bird with the bright red bill in the depths of Fiordland. [...]

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1 Response to “Man who rediscovered the takahe, nonagenarian”



  1. 1 Re-discovery of ‘extinct’ animals | Dear Kitty. Some blog Trackback on 2012 February 16 at 7:04 am
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