The local whio population on Mt Taranaki was designated ‘functionally extinct’ by 1945 due to predation by stoats and rats.

However a predator programme covering 7,500 ha of the park was started in 2003. With a lot of hard work by DOC, the Central North Island Blue Duck Trust and Whio Forever the whio population has now built up to 33 pairs

The first successful breeding was recorded in 2005 and the population has been reintroduced using birds reared in captivity, boosted by WHIONE (Whio Operation Nest Egg) and the survival of wild chicks from successful breeding seasons.

A census conducted in 2015 using dog teams counted a total of 86 birds. Within ten years Taranaki Mounga plans to increase the number of breeding pairs by 70% to 56 pairs. A population with 50 breeding pairs is considered to be a secure, viable population.

Whio are the only New Zealand duck that lives only in clean, fast flowing rivers and are well adapted to their environment, negotiating the rapids with skills that kayakers would envy.  The presence of whio is an indicator of a river’s health.   Unlike most ducks whio feed on the larvae and flying stages of aquatic insects such as caddis fly, stonefly and mayfly.

Did you know

  • Stoats are the whio’s number one predator
  • During the late summer moult period whio are flightless, making them even more vulnerable to attacks
  • There are less than 3000 whio left in the world
  • Whio feature on the NZ $10 note