Date: 02 May 2012
Students from Orautoha School had an experience of a lifetime recently and two of the students, Neihana Hall (11 yrs) and Quintin Rapana (12 yrs) played a special part in releasing four whio (blue duck) into the Manganui o te Ao River on Monday.
The whio were released near Ruatiti Domain (Raetihi) after spending most of there young life in the South Island where the eggs were hatched as part of a captive breeding programme at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch and then reared at Peacock Springs Wildlife Park, also in Christchurch.
They arrived in the North Island on the 23rd April and spent their first week in Palmerton North Esplanade under the watchful eye of Peter Russell the Esplanade Avery keeper.
Orautoha school students & Palmerston North Esplanade staff releasing the whio
On Monday 30th April local kaumatua Hokio Ngataierua-Tinirau blessed the birds near Ruatiti Domain along with iwi representatives, Orautoha school kids, DOC staff, Esplanade staff and a few locals. The students and staff gently released the four whio into the crystal clear waters of the Manganui o te Ao, now there permanent home.
The Manganui o te Ao is one of eight critical recovery sites for whio in New Zealand. Conservation of these populations is imperative if the whio is to be saved from extinction.
DOC, Iwi, Horizons Regional Council and Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust and local landowners are key partners under a project called Kia Wharite. Local landowners have continued to support the programme with access to their land and protection of bush blocks and river margins.
The whio is a unique threatened species of waterfowl endemic to New Zealand and has no close relative anywhere else in the world. Around 50 pairs of whio are protected from stoats and cats along the Manganui o te Ao and Retaruke Rivers as part of Kia Wharite.