Whio are being carefully monitored for the Ōpārara Blue Duck Protection Programme. The Ōpārara and its tributaries are one of the few strongholds for South Island whio.
The river system once supported a significant whio population, making it an ideal spot for a recovery programme. It is located deep in Kahurangi National Park, Karamea; a diverse environment, providing the habitats for species such as great spotted kiwi, short tailed bats and giant land snails.
In 2002 Solid Energy agreed to sponsor the extensive predator and bird monitoring programme along the Ōpārara Valley. 42 kilometres of stoat trap lines have been established adjacent to sections of the river where whio were known to live. The traps are targeting stoats and rats, key predators of whio. Coupled with this pest control, the DOC team are monitoring the breeding success of the whio. Adult birds are banded and backpack like transmitters attached.
DOC rangers can then keep a close eye on the whio's movements and patterns. If nesting is observed, the site is located and regularly checked until the ducks have hatched and reached a suitable size for banding.
As well as stoat trapping and walk through surveys to monitor the whio population, Whio Operation Nest Egg (whiONE) is used here. This technique involves tracking female whio (using tail mounted tranmitters) to find nests. These nests are monitored, and the resulting eggs are removed and taken to Peacock Springs in Christchurch for incubation and rearing of ducklings. The ducklings are returned to the river when they are large enough to have passed the period where they are most vulnerable. Sometimes the female whio will re-nest after her eggs have been removed and produce a second clutch of ducklings.
Large scale possum and rat control via aerial 1080 have also been undertaken in the Ōpārara. This benefits whio because stoats are also controlled through secondary poisoning. Further trap lines will be established in neighbouring catchments so that the site is capable of protecting 50 whio pairs by 2014.
An Ōpārara female blue duck with three
This project is a virtual fieldtrip offered to schools as part of the LEARNZ online education programme. Students can take part in audio conferences with DOC staff and log on to the daily website updates of video footage, photos and work taking place during the LEARNZ fieldtrips.
You can help
If you are visiting Kahurangi National Park on a tramping or hunting trip you might like to keep an eye out for whio.
Do everything possible to avoid disturbing them but let us know where and when you see them. Take a note of how many you see, where they are and the time of day.
You can use the online report form or phone the Karamea Office on +64 3 788 8008 to report the sightings or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the Karemea Office for more information on blue duck.