Whio on the Tongariro River
270 dead predators and counting … since local business people, lead by Garth Oakden of Tongariro River Rafting and Craig Morey of Parklands Motel set up the Blue Duck Project Charitable Trust to protect the rare and endangered Whio on the Tongariro River.
The Whio is endemic (only found in New Zealand) to New Zealand and one of four torrent ducks in the world which are adapted to living in fast flowing river systems like the Tongariro River. At this time of year they nest in borrows and caves along the river bank and are under most threat from introduced predators, and in particular the stoat.
Rayner Bonnington, Al Morrison,
Director General of DOC, Craig Morey,
Garth Oakden, Leith Rhynd,
Programme Manager Biodiversity DOC
The project began in October last year with 160 traps set along both sides of the river from the Major Jones footbridge to the Fence pool in what will be a two stage process to trap the entire length of the river from the Poutu intake to Turangi Township. Volunteers check the traps regularly, and catch data is sent back to Garth. To date they have caught a large number of rats, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs and even a couple of wild cats.
“We have been very pleased with the results so far and we are looking forward to moving on to stage two of the project. That’s thanks to the Pharazan Trust and Rayner Bonnington of Turangi New World and various other local businesses” says Garth. In particular he would like to acknowledge Nick Singers, who as one of the Trustees of the Blue Duck Project Charitable Trust has been instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
In acknowledgment of the Trusts efforts with this project the Department has erected joint community signs showcasing their work situated at the Major Jones Bridge and Red Hut Bridge. Recently the Director General of DOC, Al Morrison visited the area, saw some of the trapping in place and talked about this important project with the Trust members.
Stage two will include the installation of traps from the Fence Pool to the Poutu intake and funding for this stage has been received from the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust. This has enabled the Trust to purchase over 60 new self setting traps. The advantage of the self-setting traps is that it traps, kills and then releases the predator and then re-sets automatically. They will be able to be installed further upstream in the river gorge area where access is particularly difficulty and will only need to be checked twice a year.
With Whio living on such an accessible river it gives us the opportunity to see this rare and threatened native species up close. They may seem tame and unafraid, but for their safety we would be grateful if people would give them space and watch the birds from a distance, particularly when walking their dog. Dogs find the scent of ducks quite attractive, and can easily disturb a nest.
If you are interested in clearing and setting some of the traps, give Garth a call and if you see any Whio on the Tongariro River please call DOC Turangi to report your sighting as they are entered into a database which can be used to map the distribution of Whio in this area. If you are out on the river listening for Whio, remember the male whistles and the female growls!