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Celebration of bumper whio breeding season

February 27th, 2015
[DOC press release]

The Department of Conservation is celebrating this year's bumper whio/blue duck breeding season in eastern parts of Kahurangi National Park with a public whio day event.

The event will be held at Tapawera Area School from 2pm on Thursday 5 March. It will focus on information about whio and displays of welcome posters created by students at the school.

Department of Conservation Motueka Senior Ranger Kate Steffens said this is the most successful breeding season yet in the 11 years of the Wangapeka-Fyfe Whio Security Site in Kahurangi National Park.

"Sixteen pairs have produced 36 fledglings between them. The average of 2.2 fledglings per monitored pair is the site's highest breeding rate to date."

A further nine fledglings have been hatched and raised at the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch as part of the WHIONE (whio nest egg) programme, and will be released into the park on 5 March. They will stop in very briefly at the event on the way to their new home.

Kate said whio in other eastern areas of the park also appeared to have had a productive breeding season.

"Sightings of whio families have been coming in from all over the park. Whio ducklings have been seen at the confluence of the Karamea and Crow rivers for the first time in years."

The whio security site, centred on the Wangapeka and Fyfe river catchments, is one of eight nationally, ensuring the survival of whio in the wild through DOC's partnership with Genesis Energy in the Whio Forever Project. The site is managed with the goal of establishing 50 pairs there, with at least 30 pairs currently.

Kate said low rainfall had contributed to the good whio breeding as whio nests were commonly destroyed by flooded waterways from heavy rainfall.

Aerial 1080 pest control in the Wangapeka Fyfe Whio Security Site and other parts of Kahurangi National Park last year is also helping to protect whio from stoats which are the biggest predator threat to the native ducks. The site also has stoat trapping along 73km of the waterway.

Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this unique vulnerable native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever this partnership is fast tracking implementation of the national Whio Recovery Plan to protect whio and increase public awareness.

The support of Genesis Energy is enabling DOC to double the number of fully secure whio breeding sites throughout the country, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.

The whio is a threatened species of native duck that is only found in New Zealand's fast flowing waters. Featured on New Zealand's $10 note and with an estimated nationwide population of less than 2500 birds, whio are rarer than kiwi.

Whio are adapted to live on fast-flowing rivers so finding whio means you will also find clean, fast-flowing water with a good supply of underwater insects. This makes whio important indicators of ecosystem health - they only exist where there is high quality clean and healthy waterways.


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