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


Two whio have become this season's first customers at the Hardening Facility at the Tongariro National Trout Centre.

Date:  20 November 2017

Two juvenile whio/blue duck from Hamilton Zoo became the season's first customers for the Whio Hardening Facility at the Tongariro National Trout Centre on Wednesday, November 15. These are the first of many whio expected to come to the facility over the summer months.

Department of Conservation rangers and volunteers working in the crèche are thrilled to have the first whio arrive for the season.

"This is the fourth year that the Whio Hardening Facility has acted as a bootcamp for juvenile whio, giving them the best possible chance of survival in the wild," says ranger Rebecca O'Sullivan "The facility also gives the public an opportunity to see this nationally threatened species, who are difficult to see in their natural habitat". 

These captive-reared birds are spending time in the whio crèche learning to negotiate fast flowing water and how to feed for invertebrates from rocks, before their forthcoming release into wild white-water rivers, the natural habitat they are adapted to.

Captive breeding programmes are one of several incentives to raise the numbers of whio in the wild. 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.

Volunteers releasing whio out of boxes.
New volunteers Thomas Houlden and Victoria Buckley – who will take care of the daily operation of the facility – have the privilege of releasing the first whio for the season into the crèche
Image: Sarah O'Sullivan ©

Close up of pair of whio being released out of boxes.
The pair needed a little encouragement to leave their travel boxes
Image: Sarah O'Sullivan ©

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.

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.

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 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.


Rebecca O'Sullivan, Ranger
DOC Turangi Office
Mobile: +64 27 542 8509

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