Date: 25 September 2019
Taranaki’s whio (blue duck) population is doing so well the ducks are beginning to venture beyond the safety of Egmont National Park. As a result, DOC held the region’s first whio aversion training for dogs on Saturday.
Kiwi aversion for dogs is held regularly around the region, but the introduction of whio aversion highlights the success of the whio recovery programme in Egmont National Park.
Once considered functionally extinct in Taranaki due to devastation by rats and stoats and loss of habitat, there are now around 200 individuals throughout the park. Whio are rarer than some species of kiwi, with a national population between 2000 and 3000.
DOC biodiversity ranger Joe Carson said the whio aversion training was held in response to the birds making their way out of the national park and being exposed to new risks, such as farm and hunting dogs. Twenty dogs came along to the training on Saturday morning, receiving an avian aversion certificate valid for twelve months.
Avian avoidance training is a tool to help reduce the threat dogs pose to native birds, particularly kiwi and whio. Dogs are fitted with an electric shock collar before being guided along a trail with items that appeal to the dogs senses such whio bedding, feathers and scat.
If the dog shows an interest in these it will receive a brief shock from the collar operated by the trainer. The dog thinks the shock came from the whio or kiwi and learns to avoid the birds.
Even the most obedient, domesticated dogs are capable of sniffing out and killing native birds such as kiwi and whio with ease. If you're in or around New Plymouth you can register your dog for kiwi or whio aversion training by contacting the DOC New Plymouth office on 06 759 0350.
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