Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


The local whio population received a boost when nine captive bred whio were released this week.

Date:  16 March 2017

Forty people gathered on the Ruatiti Domain to celebrate the release of three whio at the site, as part of Whio Awareness Month. The remaining six whio were released by local DOC rangers in different points along the river.

DOC Senior Biodiversity Ranger Dr Rachael Abbott said that the whio were being released in groups of two or three in places that have been identified as having no resident breeding pairs. “We hope the whio will settle in to these sites and boost the number of breeding pairs next year.”

The Manganui-o-te-Ao and Retaruke Rivers is a 'whio security site', one of eight locations identified across the country as being essential for whio recovery. Whio are protected on the river through a network of traps targeting stoats and feral cats.

“The goal of a security site is to achieve protection of 50 breeding pairs” says Dr Abbott. “Our team has recently completed surveys for the season and are delighted to have 32 confirmed pairs in the site this year”.

“The goal of a Security Site is to achieve protection of 50 breeding pairs” says Dr Abbott.

The Security Site is within the Kia Wharite Biodiversity Project. The project is a collaborative project between DOC, Horizons Regional Council, tangata whenua and local landowners. Partners are working to improve the health of 180,000ha of land in the Whanganui National Park and on private land. This work includes pest and weed control, protecting bush and wetlands and monitoring threatened species such as the whio and kiwi.

Whio recovery is supported nationwide by Genesis Energy. 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. 

Background information

  • 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 3000 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.

Whio Forever

  • 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.

Whio Forever website

Conservation issue

  • 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


Peter Lock, Supervisor, Community, Whanganui District

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