The whio duck that was at risk of extinction is making a comeback in the Kahurangi National Park. The native duck’s numbers have increased by 48 per cent after a special “security site” was set up when their numbers dwindled due to intensive trapping in 2011.
43 new breeding pairs of whio have recently been surveyed in the Wangapeka and Fyfe river catchments. The number has risen since 2013 when there were only 29 pairs.
Whio numbers have almost reached capacity. As the bird is quite territorial, the pairs need to be separated by at least a kilometre.
Image: Preening Whio, shutterstock
The whio duck is hunted by the stoat, a type of weasel found in New Zealand. Surveying and monitoring the whio population has revealed that 60 per cent of new fledgelings are killed, and 50 per cent of adult females are killed by predators such as the stout.
The security site in the Kahurangi National Park is one of eight parks ensuring the whoi ducks survival. The park has partnered with Genesis Energy for the Whio Forever project.
The security site was established in 2003 after just one pair of whoi were found over 10 kilometres of water. The team installed the first trap line and since have installed 1054 more traps across 83.4km. Volunteers from Tapawera manage the Wangapeka/Fyfe security site to help maintain a population of at least 50 whio ducks in the area.
The whio species were singled out as a seriously threatened species by Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright last month.
Wright explained that many of New Zealand’s native birds are in a desperate situation and serious action needs to be taken now to reverse the decline in numbers.