DOC rangers yesterday retrieved the first egg ever from the Kawhaka site for captive rearing. The egg was 1 of 6 retrieved from the nest and transferred to the Isaac Wildlife Trust captive breeding facility at Peacock Springs in Christchurch.
Through the Whio Operation Nest Egg programme (WhiONE) Eggs are incubated, and then the chicks are raised in captivity and returned to the wild when they reach a less vulnerable size. Nesting female whio and their clutches of eggs and young are vulnerable to predation from stoats, cats and ferrets. DOC ranger Glen Newton says that the egg will hatch in about 25 days, "the egg is probably about 10 days old now".
This work is made possible by the support of Genesis Energy who are enabling DOC 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.
The support of Genesis has enabled DOC to continue to grow the central West Coast whio recovery site that was initially made possible with support from Solid Energy to the Kawhaka valley. The central site started focused on the Styx River, grew to the Arahura, then to the Taipo and Kawhaka catchments.
Glen says the Isaac Wildlife trust is also instrumental in the whio recovery project, "They fund and operate a breeding and captive rearing facility in Christchurch and rear whio from a number of sites around New Zealand". Glen says removal of the eggs means that the population of ducks in the valley will grow faster – "more chicks surviving into adulthood means more breeding adults entering the population". "That's good news for whio, and for cyclists, who have a growing chance of seeing whio in the Kawhaka Creek".
Ranger Glen Newton holds the first blue duck/whio egg that was retrieved from a nest beside Kawhaka Creek on the West Coast Wilderness cycle trail on Thursday morning
Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this unique threatened native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever this partnership is fast tracking implementation of the national Whio Recovery Plan to protect whio and increase public awareness.
The support of Genesis Energy is enabling DOC 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.
The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust are a privately funded charitable trust specialising in captive breeding and release of endangered species. The trust artificially incubate and hatch eggs, rear chicks and precondition juveniles for release.
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 2500 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 the Department of Conservation (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.
- The 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 1km 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.
Whio are a threatened species of native duck that is only found in New Zealand's fast flowing waters