Find a Whio, an online competition for Conservation Week, began on Saturday and runs through until the end of this month.
2013 Conservation Week winner Jazmin King proudly displays the trout she caught during a fly fishing lesson
The virtual whio map on the DOC website is an online game, open to all children aged between seven and 13 years. The competition involves looking for virtual whio on a map of New Zealand.
The whio or blue duck is featured on New Zealand’s $10 note and with a population of less than 3,000 birds it is Nationally Vulnerable. This species of native duck is only found in New Zealand’s fast flowing waters and is an important indicators of ecosystem health – they only exist where there is high quality clean and healthy waterways.
Finding whio is not always easy but DOC has partnered with Genesis Energy in a five year programme to secure the future of this unique vulnerable native bird, and the 2014 Conservation Week competition to ‘Find a Whio’ is another element of this successful partnership.
This year’s competition involves a mix of the virtual and reality in the online contest with a number of spot prizes and an awesome major ‘once in a lifetime’ prize. The child that wins the major prize wins an amazing trip with a parent to Tongariro National Park to join the DOC whio team to search for real whio.
The grand prize includes flight, airport transfers and accommodation for three nights with meals. There are also 50 spot prizes up for grabs, so get on to the DOC website and find a whio hidden on the online map.
On her first ride in a helicopter Jazmin admitted she was a little nervous when she and Dad Mark (left) went up with Keith McKenzie from Fly My Sky helicopters
The game involves looking for virtual whio on a map of New Zealand. Icons representing whio, stoats and other New Zealand species are on the map where whio already exist.
Every time a whio is found there is also information about the whio and a prompt to enter the draw to win the grand prize. The more whio found the more entries the participants will have in the draw.
Last year’s Conservation week winner Nelson student Jazmin King says her trip to Tongariro National Park was ‘a dream come true’.
‘It was such an amazing week and I will never forget it,” says Jazmin of her trip of a lifetime that included so many firsts for the Nelson Intermediate student: first time in a helicopter, seeing an active volcano, getting up close with a whio, white water rafting, holding, naming and releasing a Kiwi into the wild, fly fishing and catching a trout.
So if your child, or a child you know, is aged between seven and 13 years and would love an adventure of a lifetime then help them to find a whio.
DOC ranger Bubs Smith, Mark, Neo the Whio dog and Jazmin on their white water adventure with Tongariro River Rafting
Background Information on whio
- 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 2,500 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.
- Genesis Energy has a strong historic association with whio through the Tongariro Power Scheme and in 2010 this association grew through the establishment of Whio Awareness Month (March).
- Today, Genesis Energy and DOC continue their partnership through The Whio Forever Programme, which aims to secure the future of whio in the wild and ensure New Zealanders understand and value of whio in our rivers.
- The support of Genesis Energy and the work of DOC has enabled the Whio Recovery Plan to be implemented.
- Whio are eaten by stoats, ferrets and cats, with the largest impact during nesting time when eggs, young and females are vulnerable, and also when females are in moult and can’t fly.
- Extensive trapping can manage these predators and work in key whio habitats by DOC and Genesis Energy on the Whio Forever Project has already seen an increase in whio numbers.
- Whio cannot be moved to predator-free islands like other species because of their reliance on large fast-flowing rivers.
- Pairs occupy approximately 1 km of water – so they need a lot of river to sustain a large population and they fiercely defend their territories, which makes it difficult to put them with other ducks in captivity.
- They are susceptible to flood events which, destroy nests, fragment broods and wash away their valued food source.