Hoki smells whio whio

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

Spe­cially trained dogs are help­ing Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion staff to con­serve the sur­viv­ing pop­u­la­tion of blue ducks in the Wakatipu. The blue duck, or whio whio, is a rare species of na­tive duck usu­ally found in re­mote rivers in moun­tain­ous val­leys. Around Queen­stown the blue duck lives in the head­wa­ters of Lake Wakatipu, in­clud­ing the Route­burn and nearby val­leys. Depart­ment Queen­stown con­ser­va­tion part­ner­ships man­ager Greg Lind said the blue duck could dis­ap­pear from the re­gion and was vul­ner­a­ble to stoat at­tacks. ‘‘With so few blue ducks re­main­ing, un­less the de­cline is halted the species faces a real risk of be­com­ing lo­cally ex­tinct,’’ Mr Lind said. But the species is of­ten hard to find so the depart­ment is us­ing spe­cially trained dogs to sniff them out. Ranger Paul van Klink and bor­der col­lie/ springer cross Hoki have been busy search­ing the Route­burn Val­ley for ducks. ‘‘Hoki is a bun­dle of en­ergy and works tire­lessly all day bound­ing across boul­ders and through streams to find the ducks. She is a su­per sleuth, and can find ducks un­der boul­ders, in pools away from rivers and in old log hide­aways,’’ Mr van Klink said. Hoki was trained from an early age to sniff out the blue duck but re­frain from hav­ing them for din­ner. She was cer­ti­fied with the Con­ser­va­tion Dogs Pro- gramme be­fore be­ing al­lowed to en­ter na­tional parks and al­ways wears a muz­zle. In the Route­burn, so far, the pair found six blue ducks and the depart­ment’s am­bi­tion is to re-in­tro­duce more birds to the Wakatipu. The pair plan to search the Milford Track and re­turn to the Route­burn and nearby val­leys next year.

Paul van Klink with Hoki.

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