Pro­tect­ing Ruahines’ river-lov­ing whio

The Tribune (NZ) - - ENVIRONMENT - ANNE LAWRENCE

Whio, the blue duck, is en­dan­gered with only 3000 re­main­ing in the wild. This unique bird lives in clean, fast flow­ing moun­tain rivers. An in­di­ca­tor species for a clean wa­ter­way, whio are deter­minedly ter­ri­to­rial birds that mate for life.

A small pop­u­la­tion sur­vive in the Ruahine For­est Park where ded­i­cated vol­un­teers are work­ing to in­crease their num­bers.

Stoats are the main preda­tor, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the Au­gust to De­cem­ber breed­ing sea­son, when eggs, chicks and nest­ing fe­males are easy prey. Rats will also take eggs and chicks from nests. Trap­ping is an ef­fec­tive tool for con­trol­ling both pests.

There are six groups in­volved in Ruahine stoat trap­ping projects, and the Ruahine Whio Pro­tec­tion Trust was formed early last year to es­tab­lish a fund for fu­ture con­ser­va­tion work.

Trap set­ting and check­ing is mostly done by vol­un­teers, and check­ing traps in spring with snow melt and high river lev­els can be a chal­lenge. Last year, wind con­di­tions made ac­cess in to the Po­hang­ina river via the tops dif­fi­cult.

In Oc­to­ber, the Trust pro­vided fund­ing for a he­li­copter to carry 100 gas can­is­ters for the self-set­ting traps into mid-Po­hang­ina hut.

Vol­un­teers re­port see­ing more whio. Lisa Whit­tle, check­ing traps re­cently in the north­ern Ruahines, was re­warded with a lovely sight.

‘‘One pair [of whio] came out just on dusk with one very small duck­ling. It had ex­tremely at­ten­tive par­ents! We wouldn’t have seen them if we hadn’t camped,’’ Lisa re­ports.

Ear­lier last year, reg­u­lar vol­un­teers An­thony Behrens and Fiona Burleigh raised funds for the trust by walk­ing the length of the South Is­land Te Araroa Trail over three months.

Next step for the Trust is web­site de­vel­op­ment and es­tab­lish­ing Friends of the Whio.

A pair of whio rest be­side the Oroua River in the Ruahine Ranges.

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