Join fight to pro­tect whio

More en­dan­gered than the kiwi, whio strug­gle against preda­tors

Manawatu Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - By ALEXAN­DER ROBERT­SON

It’s elu­sive, en­demic and en­dan­gered and is the only duck in the world that whis­tles not quacks. The whio duck lives right in our back­yard deep in the Ruahine Ranges.

It’s a na­tional icon that is on our $10 note.

But it’s not money that’s sav­ing th­ese ducks; it’s the blood and sweat from vol­un­teers as they trap stoats, rats and weasels through­out the Ruahine Ranges. Th­ese are the big­gest threat to the whio.

Ruahine Whio Pro­tec­tors Trust chair­woman Janet Wil­son has ded­i­cated the last 10 years to the whio as she leads the trust to bring the duck back from the brink of ex­tinc­tion.

Janet took a party deep into the Ororua River north­east of A¯ piti, Manawatu¯ , on a mis­sion to re­set traps and find the whio in its nat­u­ral habi­tat. Janet said there’s less than 3000 whio in the coun­try and it’s far more en­dan­gered than the kiwi.

“It’s spe­cially adapted to live in th­ese rivers. It has a rub­bery bill that can get un­der rocks and find the in­ver­te­brates . . . they’re fiercely ter­ri­to­rial and cover up to 1.5km of river.”

Although the whio in the Ruahine Ranges spends the ma­jor­ity of its time liv­ing on the fast flow­ing and pris­tine head­wa­ters, to re­pro­duce they have to lay eggs on the river banks where preda­tors await.

Janet says stoats, rats and weasels can’t re­sist the smell and taste of them and there’s video footage of th­ese ro­dents at­tack­ing the nest and some­times killing the mother.

Janet is call­ing for com­pe­tent and ca­pa­ble vol­un­teers who would like to join their fight against the whio preda­tors.

“You’ve got to be com­mit­ted and strong enough to han­dle the some­times harsh el­e­ments of the Ruahine Ranges,” she warns.

Rangi­wahia vol­un­teers Steve and Mary Biel­ski have been on the at­tack against whio en­e­mies.

They re­set a loop of traps that cov­ers al­most 15km that starts at the Rangi­wahia Hut carpark.

Steve says it’s a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence and re­ward­ing to give the ducks a chance, but the trap­ping is also giv­ing other birds in the Ruahine a chance to bounce back.

Con­tact the Ruahine Whio Pro­tec­tors www.rwp.org.nz or find them on Face­book

■ See video www.lo­cal­fo­cus.nz. Made with fund­ing by NZ on Air

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