Introduction

Twelve young whio/blue ducks reared at Christchurch’s Peacock Springs Wildlife Centre have been released this week into Kahurangi National Park’s Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site.

Date:  04 February 2010

Twelve young whio/blue ducks reared at Christchurch’s Peacock Springs Wildlife Centre have been released this week into Kahurangi National Park’s Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site. 

The release of the 12 birds yesterday (3 February) complements what has been a bumper breeding season in the Department of Conservation Wangapeka/Fyfe whio security site with 28 ducklings counted in a survey there late last year.

Rick Barber of Ngati Waewae iwi and DOC ranger Kate Steffens release young whio in the Sandstone River, Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site.
Rick Barber of Ngati Waewae iwi and
DOC ranger Kate Steffens release
young whio in the Sandstone River,
Wangapeka-Fyfe whio security site

DOC ranger Abby Butler, who co-ordinates the Wangapeka/Fyfe whio security site programme, said it was a real bonus for the whio population to have more ducklings than usual this breeding season.

“Whio are naturally found in New Zealand’s wild backcountry waterways.  It’s hugely rewarding to see whio successfully breeding in areas where we know they at least have a better chance of survival against stoats and rats.” 

The whio security site is one of eight DOC whio security sites run nationally to secure the survival in the wild of the endangered species.  It is centred on the Wangapeka and Fyfe river catchments and encompasses about 30,000 hectares of beech forest. The objective for the site is to reach 37 whio pairs and with 16 pairs currently present this is looking achievable. 

When the whio programme began on the Wangapeka catchment’s Rolling River in 2003, just three whio lived on the river. The tally in last year’s survey in the Wangapeka/Fyfe site was 65 birds (16 pairs, five single ducks and 28 ducklings).

Abby said a key factor in achieving the population increase had been use of the technique of taking eggs from pairs in the wild, then hatching and rearing the young at the Peacock Springs wildlife centre. The young ducks are then released into the whio site when a few months old.

The technique helps increase productivity as those pairs from which eggs are taken often re-nest and produce further young which they raise in the wild. 

It has been far from plain sailing though as stoat numbers have exploded in the national park this summer due to a beech mast.  Volunteers from the Hutt Valley Tramping Club found 77 stoats and 23 rats in 221 traps back in January in a voluntary trap check.

“Just how many stoats are in the security site is uncertain but there’s no doubt that without the trapping there would be fewer whio,” said Abby.

“We are very grateful for the work of dedicated volunteers who enable us to achieve results beyond our own resources, including the Hutt Valley Tramping Club members and also a group of Tapawera Area School student who also help with checking and clearing traps.”

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Media contact

Trish Grant, DOC Nelson/Marlborough communications advisor, phone +64 3 546 3146

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