Date: 16 January 2019
Five of the 20 whio were released onto the Big Wainihinihi River, which has recently had a network of traps installed to help control numbers of stoats, which prey on young whio and nesting female whio.
The new network of 45 double trap boxes stretches for six kilometres and is maintained monthly by DOC staff and volunteers. The addition of the Wainihinihi River sees the length of protected river in the security site grow to 80km.
The protected site is an important part of the Whio Forever programme started by Genesis and DOC in 2011 that has increased the number of whio pairs protected in New Zealand from 298 pairs in 2011 to 652 pairs today.
DOC Hokitika Operations Manager Nicole Kunzmann breeding assistance has greatly increased the growth in the whio population
“Operation Nest Egg has been used at this site since 2006, where wild hatched eggs are hatched and ducklings raised in captivity until they are of a size better able to fend off predators.
“Releases of young whio from captive held whio pairs from this area started in 2016.
We have three pairs of whio from this site breeding in captivity, these birds are held at Orana Wildlife Park, the Kiwi Birdlife Park and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.
“Once the eggs are laid and hatched at these facilities the ducklings are raised at The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust’s Peacock Springs facility in Christchurch. The support of these organisations, and Genesis as our Whio Forever partner has been instrumental in increasing the number of birds on our rivers.
“Captive breeding is useful for growing numbers of whio quickly and repopulating areas where whio numbers have been declining. We recently surveyed the Big Wainihinihi and were only able to find one male duck, which we think may recently have lost his mate. Hopefully the newly released whio will pair up, establish territories and breed in the years to come.”
“Hokitika is a popular destination for tramping and hiking, and the chance of encountering whio in our backcountry is increasing with every release that takes place”, says Karen Sky, Environmental Manager at Genesis who is part of the Whio Forever project team. “The DOC team does an incredible job at nurturing and preparing whio chicks for life on the river and we’re privileged to be their chosen partner for the Whio Forever national recovery programme.
“As well as the Big Wainihinihi, whio were released today on the Kawhaka River, and the Styx and Arahura Rivers.”
Protection from predators is key to ensuring the newly released whio can breed successfully. The support of Genesis is enabling DOC to double the number of fully secure whio breeding sites to eight throughout the country, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.
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