Banding two rare whio blue duck with DOC rangers in the Tongariro Forest Park was a truly unique opportunity won by ten-year-old Theo Stebbings of Dunedin.
Theo was delighted to share his winning adventure with his Mum and Dad, Brenda and Simon and his 13-year-old sister Molly last week.
Conservation dog Fern and her ranger Malcolm Swanney carefully flushed a pair of whio down the Mangatepopo River into a mist net, where the Stebbings Family helped gently lift the whio for their banding.
“I was surprised at how big the whio are, and it had interesting eyes. I felt very protective towards it”, described a thrilled Theo.
Previously that day the family had heard from ranger Bubs Smith how vulnerable the rare species is to predators, habitat change and floods.
“Now every time I spend $10 and look down at the picture of the whio, I know it’s no ordinary duck, it can swim upstream in white water rapids, and it’s endangered”.
With glue and a stick from the river Theo & sister Molly helped glue the bands closed, rebranding the male duck’s old bands, and giving a new band to the juvenile female. Letting them go again, these bands will help the DOC rangers keep important scientific data so that they can learn even more how to best protect these birds.
Theo entered his nature loving Dunedin family into the annual Whio Forever Great Whio Adventure competition choosing the Tongariro National Park, in the North Island, as his destination.
The Whio Forever annual competition included a five day holiday staying in the Chateau Tongariro. The family also got to white water raft the Tongariro River alongside the whio, and explore the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Tama Lakes walks.
To be in the chance to win this amazing opportunity, entries will open again in March 2015.
Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this unique vulnerable 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.