The three kōwhiowhio (whio or blue duck) ducklings laid by the sanctuary’s breeding pair
Image: Crystal Brindle | ©

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


Punanga Manu o Te Anau/Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is now home to three extra-special residents.

Date:  11 November 2020

On the 28 of October three kōwhiowhio (whio or blue duck) ducklings hatched from a clutch of eggs laid by the sanctuary’s captive breeding pair.

This breeding pair arrived just two days after the South Island moved into COVID Alert Level 2 to replace the pair transferred to the sanctuary last October which, in an unusual twist, turned out to be bonded males, something that was only discovered when they began to whistle!

The current male and female pair come from eggs harvested in the wild via the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust’s Peacock Springs wildlife habitat facility in Christchurch.

They were welcomed to their new home in Te Anau by Ra Dallas of Ōraka-Aparima - Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and given their names.

The male is Tiaki, meaning to guard and/or protect, and the female is Manaaki, meaning to care and support.

As only the fifth breeding pair of kōwhiowhio in captivity in the South Island, Tiaki and Manaaki have great potential to contribute to the entire breeding programme and boost the population at a rate of three clutches per annum after two years, says DOC Senior Ranger Andrew (Max) Smart.

Genesis and DOC have partnered together since 2011 to secure the future of this threatened native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever, this partnership is implementing a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat.

Genesis Community Investment Manager, Jenny Burke, said the company is pleased to be able to support the captive breeding programme as it plays such an important role in the Whio Forever programme.  

“As well as hopefully producing more young ones, this pair will also be great advocates for their species. Seeing whio in the wild is not always possible so this pair will be responsible for ‘telling’ the whio story and making the public aware of the importance of the species to New Zealand.”

Tiaki and Manaaki’s three healthy ducklings will soon be able to be seen by the public at the sanctuary on guided tours. At almost two weeks old they are already full of energy and fun to watch. 

Eventually, Tiaki and Manaaki will also be visible to the public as part of the sanctuary’s offered tours.

The support of Genesis is helping to fast track the Whio Recovery Programme, increase the number of breeding pairs, and provide ongoing predator control at the highest priority security sites, enhancing productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.

More about 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 3000 birds, whio are rarer than kiwi.
  • Whio are adapted to live on fast-flowing rivers so finding whio means you will also find fresh, fast-flowing water with a good supply of plants and underwater insects.
  • This makes whio important indicators of ecosystem health – they only exist where there is quality fresh water and an abundance of life.

Whio Forever

  • Genesis 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
  • Today, Genesis and DOC continue their partnership through The Whio Forever Project, which aims to secure the future of whio in the wild and ensure New Zealanders understand and value whio in our rivers.
  • The support of Genesis and the work of DOC has enabled the Whio Recovery Plan to be implemented.

Conservation issues

  • Whio are predated 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 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 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.


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