Tongariro National Park recently hosted two families on amazing whio adventures won during Whio Awareness Month and Conservation Week.
Ten-year-old Theo Stebbings of Dunedin won his whio family adventure package during the annual whio awareness month competition, which kicks off again on March 1st this year.
Winning a whio adventure was “a really amazing experience” according to Conservation Week competition winner Palmerston North student Sarah Ridsdale.
Theo, who won last year’s awareness month competition, shared his winning adventure with his mum Brenda Stebbings, dad Simon Stebbings, and his 13-year-old sister Molly, at the end of the recent school holidays.
Banding two rare whio blue duck with DOC rangers in the Tongariro Forest Park was a highlight for Theo: “I was surprised at how big the whio are, and it had interesting eyes. I felt very protective towards it.”
The family 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,” said Theo.
As part of the prize package, Theo’s family enjoyed a five-day holiday staying in the Chateau Tongariro. They also enjoyed white water rafting the Tongariro River alongside the whio, and exploring the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Tama Lakes walks.
Another family will have the chance to win a Great Whio Adventure in either Tongariro National Park or Fiordland National Park next month as Whio Awareness Month kicks off for 2015.
Sarah won the ‘Find a whio’ Conservation Week competition late last year. She shared her recent whio adventure with dad Scott Ridsdale, a Manawatu farming consultant, and younger brother Sam (aged 10).
Sarah couldn’t decide what was more memorable between catching, banding and releasing two rare whio blue ducks in the wild, seeing even more whio while white water rafting the Tongariro River, or releasing a kiwi chick back into the forest.
The family spent three days in the Tongariro National Park in late January. Each day, accompanied by DOC rangers, they experienced different whio-themed activities. These included tracking the birds in the wild, white water rafting with Tongariro River Rafting, and visiting the facility where whio ducklings are prepared for release into the wild.
“I have seen whio in photographs and in captivity, but that really doesn’t compare to seeing them in the wild,” Sarah said.
Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation partner 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.