A record number of whio ducklings have been located on Mt Taranaki in what is the best year for our rare native blue duck.
Eight-seven (87) ducklings have been found by Department of Conservation (DOC) Rangers on eight regularly surveyed rivers. This is an increase of 71 percent from the 51 ducklings located during the 2018-2019 breeding season.
The annual whio monitoring work on Mt Taranaki is part of the DOC Whio Forever partnership with Genesis Energy.
Reducing predator numbers is a major factor in the large increase of whio. In the last four years stoat trapping has increased from 9,020 hectares to around 14,500 hectares. In addition, an aerial 1080 operation was completed before spring in 2019.
DOC Biodiversity Ranger Joe Carson says the increase of whio numbers is not only contained within the regularly surveyed rivers, but there have been multiple sightings across the Maunga, and whio are now living outside the national park boundaries.
“It’s been a really exciting year! It’s extremely gratifying hearing stories from locals and visitors on the Maunga encountering these taonga,” she says. “Whio are breeding so successfully that pairs are now living on neighbouring farmland.”
The local whio/blue duck population on Mt Taranaki was designated “functionally extinct” in 1945 because of predation by stoats and rats. The whio population has now built up to at least 31 pairs.
Genesis’ Group Manager Corporate Relations and Sustainability, Katie Watt, says it is heart-warming to see the programme returning such excellent results.
“Genesis values our partnership with DOC and to know we’re making a positive difference to one of our most unique taonga really matters to us,” says Watt.
With around 640 pairs in the North Island, this increase in whio numbers is great news for New Zealand.
Taranaki Mounga Project Manager Sean Zieltjes acknowledges the many groups and individuals who are working together towards this positive outcome.
“Completing our 1080 operation before spring has definitely helped to knock down predator numbers to give whio the best chance to breed,” says Sean. “This is backed up by the ongoing trapping efforts by volunteers on the Maunga, through to neighbouring farmers trapping on their properties. All this work is providing a safe haven for whio to continue to thrive,” says Sean.