Ducks Unlimited NZ

Displaying items by tag: Recovery

Monday, 22 July 2019 13:16

Whio Forever

Whio Forever wins green ribbon award

The Whio Forever recovery programme won the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Award this year for protecting our biodiversity. 

The Awards recognise outstanding contributions of individuals, organisations, 
businesses and communities to protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s environment.

The National Whio Recovery Programme is a partnership between Genesis Energy, the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird and the Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust. It is focused on the protection and recovery of the whio, a threatened native bird and supports whio security and recovery 
sites across the country.

Genesis Energy Environmental Manager, Bonny Lawrence and the Department of Conservation Whio Recovery Group Leader, Andrew Glaser accepted the award from the department’s Director General, Lou Sanson. 
Genesis Energy’s Chief Executive, Albert Brantley said the credit for winning the award has to go to the large community of people nationwide who are dedicated to the protection of whio.
“This award recognises the efforts of all of the people who are involved in protecting the whio and raising the profile of this iconic bird. That Genesis Energy is able to fund and support this work is something we are very proud off,” said Albert.
Sponsorship from Genesis Energy will enable the 10-year recovery plan to be delivered ahead of schedule. The target number of whio pairs to be protected at recovery sites has doubled to 200 pairs. Based on results to date it is estimated that by 2016, the target of 400 protected whio pairs will be reached at the
eight security sites Receiving the award DOC’s Whio Recovery Group Leader Andrew Glaser said it was exciting the Whio Forever partnership was 
acknowledged, as the Awards recognised a wide range of amazing environmental initiatives around New Zealand.
“It was inspirational to hear about the incredible work happening across the country, and to talk to people who have the same passion and drive to make changes to our natural environment.
“The whio is an icon of our waterways, where there are whio there are healthy, clean waterways so this programme is incredibly important,” he said.

Andy also acknowledged the many whio practitioners and community supporters
who have contributed to the success of the programme.

The whio recovery programme also funds WHIONE projects (Whio Operation Nest Egg) that allows wild whio populations to be boosted with ducklings hatched and raised in safe havens, then released into the wild.


Published in Issue 161
Sunday, 25 February 2018 21:14

Habitat te Henga

Mutterings from the Marsh

Nearly nine months since the release date on January 22, and things are looking good for the first trial cohort of 20 pateke at Habitat te Henga.

Although rarely seen, their radio transmitters give the show away and let us know they have tended to take up residence in separate parts of the wetland. Many are clustered within a few hundred metres of the release site, while others have shunned their companions and are contentedly at the extremes of the wetland, west or east.

Required by the Pateke Recovery group to monitor the birds intensively for the fist six months, but only at monthly intervals beyond, we have been able to have volunteers maintain a weekly survey. With spring upon us and with certain pairs sticking close to each other we hope the more frequent monitoring will give us an indication if nesting is occurring.

Another more sombre reason though is that if a mortality signal is generated, we might be aware sooner and be able to recover a body to possibly determine cause of death. Three times we have had the mortality tone, and two carcasses were found while in the third case the transmitter was accurately tracked to almost 2-metre deep water. Was this a death or a case of harness failure? With that possibility and with an analysis of one carcass that showed no signs of predation but rather a tarsus fracture indicating a probable duck vs. vehicle incident, we have been fairly pleased with our predator control measures.
With no mortality tones in almost five months the population of 16 remaining birds seems nicely stable. But hang on you say, 16 plus three is 19 –what about the 20th? Well you might ask, as pateke channel 54 disappeared after five days and its signal could not be detected near or far at any of three local water reservoirs or along the extensive west coast beaches. Until it returned after 154 days! The prodigal’s return was welcomed but she obviously had other ideas and went again after a couple of weeks.

Maintaining predator control has been a large group of volunteers who check traps- some on their own properties, others checking traps on private or public land. Almost half of the traps though, are tended by our contractor who walks two 12 -14 km trap lines on a regular two weekly schedule. This large number of traps has allowed us to conduct an experiment which is ongoing.Alternate traps are baited with salted rabbit meat or a commercial dried rabbit product. The Statistics Department of Auckland University is analysing the results and by next year will be able to tell us if one is more efficient a lure than the other.

A contentious topic recently, but one I’ve been promoting is the use of UAV not for the casual model aircraft enthusiast, but as a genuine conservation tool. Chancing upon a local UAV manufacturer I was able to get him to look into using a UAV [drone] as an aerial radio receiver.
Drones with cameras used for conservation purposes are commonplace but the use of a drone to be able to track multiple radio frequencies could be a first and for a secretive species such as pateke [or kiwi] might greatly enhance monitoring. Test flights have taken place and for an idea of what the UAV looks like, a short video is on the site.

Other activities include a recent extensive survey of fernbird at three sites comparing the Forest & Bird reserve where predator control has been maintained for 15 years to two new sites only trapped over the past 18 months. This will give baseline date to use when we are able to add rodent control to some of the new sites. Spotless crake were to come in for a similar survey using sound playback in early October.

Meanwhile bittern are being seen more and more frequently. Nice to think it is due to our pest management, but it’s as likely to be due to more observations by interested persons. As with most conservation though, the hardest task is fundraising and a second translocation next year is dependant on successful applications. I’ll tell you how that went in a future update.

John Summich.
Published in Issue 165
Friday, 16 February 2018 20:50

Whio in the spotlight

With less than 3000 whio around New Zealand, they need all the help they can get.

A two-day Whio Recovery Workshop was held in June at Tokaanu, near Turangi, where people with a passion for the endangered nativeblue duck gathered to hear information, ask questions and get what answers they could, although the overwhelming conclusion was that there is still lots more to be done. 

More than 50 people involved in whio protection in the North Island took part in the workshop, which was held at the Genesis Energy Tokaanu Power Station. 

The attendees were able to grow and maintain links with like-minded people, share their skills, learn more about research and consider some of the innovations being tried to ensure the safety of whio and increase its numbers. That included new and better ways to keep predators away and, if possible, eliminate themwith best practice monitoring and trapping techniques.

The workshop group also visited the Turangi Trout Fishery, where they were shown how to set and use predator traps and how to set nets to catch ducks.

The recovery programme  involves not only paid workers, but  private organisations and volunteers. They give up their own time to set traps, walk trap lines every two to three weeks,and keep an eye on the ducks at the same time.

This workshop was not just a talkfest, but included the chance to learn about the latest research and tools, and take part in practical demonstrations such as trap maintenance and safety. 

Threats to whio

Introduced predators are the whio’s worst  enemies.  A whio recovery plan includes trapping and the use of toxins to reduced predators. Without such work, there would be no whio.   

Stoats are the main killers, along with ferrets, feral cats, falcons and dogs. But events such as floods, that scour out riverbanks, can take away the whio’s food source. Even resource consents, water use and discharge of dirty water are a threat. Then, for the females, their moulting phase makes them vunerable to predators, as they cannot fly away.

The recovery project, without which the whio would be gone, is expensive and a significant partner is a necessity. Genesis Energy has stepped in to provide funding - $2 million overfive years - and its staff  have become involvedin helping with recovery projects. 

In the early 1980s, the Moawhango Tunnel was commissioned in the upper Tongariro River and whio numbers decreased in that area because of the changed flow volumes of the river. By 2004, however, work was done to create a minimum flow and the population rebounded. 

Predation remains the key risk

Around the country, both Government workers  and volunteers continue to trap predators and take care of eggs. Floods can wipe out a whole season’s ducklings. There is also a need to increase gender diversity and the transfer of juveniles to other areas helps with this.

Recent use of DOC200 traps and double set traps (where two predators are caught in the same trap), along with aerial 1080 drops, have helped survival.  David Rogerson reported setting 85 traps and catching 50 rats a fortnight along the Maramataha River in the King Country. Malcolm Swanney trained Fern, a German short-haired pointer dog, to become a champion whio finder who will never hurt a bird.

The Ruahine Ranges

Janet Wilson, a keen tramper from the  Manawatu, started work as a DOC volunteer trapper in 2011 in the Ruahines.

The Ruahine Whio Protection Trust was formed as a collective and now a strong group of volunteers works along120 kilometres of the range. Many drive to Napier and work the Napier ridge to the Orva and back south. There are 1500 traps and it is steep terrain. 

Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club volunteers drive to Hawke’s Bay once a month to check and manage traps from that side.

Janet said she was disappointed that not enough protection work was done by DOC. Along those ranges there were 60 huts, mostly old. There are 500 plus tracks, and lots of rivers. “We have seven groups working together as a collective and using DOC200 traps.”

Jessica Scrimgeour said Janet and the collective have worked hard to keep the system going. “Janet’s commitment has driven the plan over the years.”

Taranaki trial

A trial whio recovery plan was put in place  during 1999-2000 in Taranaki to investigate a viable population.  Fifteen birds were introduced, but, for a variety of reasons, did not survive. The group persevered with stoat control in 2002 and in 2008, they released 170 ducks, with a 50-50 gender balance.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of pairs has been good with a survival rate of about 81 percent. The next phase is to increase gender diversity. Predator control remains essential, but it was also found that it is best to transfer juveniles and not adults to other areas.

Some New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association members have agreed to help out by checking traps while out hunting.


Rachel Abbot talked about the Kia Whariti  biodiversity project, which also involves DOC and Genesis Energy, in the 20,000-hectare Tongariro forest, bordered by the Whakapapa, Whanganui and Mangatepopo rivers, where they are using DOC 200 traps plus double set traps, and aerial 1080 drops. Since 2007,  trapping has been in progress with 700 traps  along the trap line.

Future threats

Another possible threat to whio is plantation  forestry logging. However, recent information suggests that forestry companies who are aware of the presence of ducks will move their operations away from any nesting sites until the chicks have left. 

The Whio Workshop was a success, but there’s such a lot to do, so let’s hope it will lead to more protection for the lovely whio. Alison Beath, the convenor, a senior ranger with DOC, is to be congratulated on the event. 

Published in Issue 168