Date: 18 March 2013
Last week local Whanganui and Ruapehu Department of Conservation staff released whio back into wild populations on the Manganui o te Ao River, the upper Whanganui River and Whakapapa River.
Whio are a threatened species of native duck found only 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.
“There is always excitement when birds that have been part of the national captive breeding program are available for release. We are fortunate this time to receive eight birds locally for the Manganui o te Ao River,” says DOC Whanganui Biodiversity Programme Manager Jim Campbell.
The Manganui o te Ao River and the nearby Retaruke River (both flowing into the Whanganui River) are one of eight National Security Sites set up for the protection of whio. Considerable conservation effort is being put into the management of the site. The major threat to whio is predation by pests and to manage this threat extensive trapping systems are being established in strategic and accessible places along the Manganui o te Ao and Retaruke Rivers.
The protection provided to whio by trapping predators is the result of a collaborative effort. We can’t do it alone and our successes are the result of the commitment by other parties concerned about the survival of whio.
Jim says there is great work already taking place as part of the joint Horizon’s/DOC Kia Wharite biodiversity project. This collaboration includes local farmers with land adjoining the rivers, three iwi groups, Genesis Energy and DOC staff. More than 65 km of the Manganui o te Ao and Retaruke Rivers has now been trapped with nearly 2,000 traps protecting around 50 breeding pairs.
Genesis Energy and DOC have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this threatened native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever this partnership is implementing a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat.
The national support of Genesis Energy is enabling the Department 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.
Whanganui and Tongariro areas have been major contributors of birds into the captive breeding program. Birds bred in the program are most likely genetically related to the local birds. “This whio release really is a home-coming!” says Jim.
How can you help to protect whio?
- Keep the waterways and the river environment clean.
- When camping or picnicking remember to take out what you bring in.
- Observe guidelines for keeping the waterways free from didymo and other freshwater weeds – Check, Clean, Dry
- Leave your dogs at home when visiting waterways where whio populations live or keep them on a leash.
- Support riparian planting and waterway protection in your area.