Hawke’s Bay whio initiative gets cash grant
Genesis investment to help cement “encouraging” local Blue Duck numbers
A successful Hawke’s Bay whio, or blue duck, conservation project has received a four-year, $107,500 cash injection from Whio Forever, a species recovery programme launched jointly by Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
The grant will enable the Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust to expand the work it’s doing on its property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, a 6,120 hectare expanse of bush south of Te Urewera National Park in inland Hawke’s Bay.
This includes establishing a secure breeding area for whio by exterminating predators and pests, conducting research into resident populations and monitoring breeding patterns.
The Trust already operates 333 mustelid traps in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in partnership with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. It has also used its own money to establish a network of trapping tracks.
“This is not a captive breeding programme,” said Pete Shaw, FLR trustee and forest manager. “It’s about effective stewardship of the wild birds that are starting to call our properties home because they’re safe places to live and breed.”
Shaw announced earlier this year that the catchment areas of the Waiau and Te Hoe rivers bordering the Trust’s Maungataniwha property had been classified a Blue Duck 'Recovery Site' by DOC's Whio Recovery Group (WRG). This followed a census conducted by the agency, with input from the Trust and other interested parties, which revealed an “immensely encouraging” whio population density.
Whio Forever aims to double the number of secure breeding sites for the threatened native duck over the next five years.
“The funding we’re announcing today will help cement this area’s potential as a recovery point for this embattled little duck, and will hopefully contribute to the long-term survival of what remains currently a highly endangered species,” Shaw said.
Classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) and as ‘nationally vulnerable’ by DOC, the whio – named for the high-pitched whistle made by the male - has been severely impacted by exotic predators such as stoats.
Once widespread throughout New Zealand’s back-country rivers, the whio population is now severely fragmented and chick counts are falling. It’s estimated that about 640 pairs live on the North Island, with less than 700 pairs on the South Island.
“Conservation in New Zealand can no longer be purely the preserve of government agencies,” said Trust Chairman Simon Hall. “The job’s too big, the battle’s too fierce. Landowners and the private sector all have a role to play.
“We’re delighted with this grant by Whio Forever. It’s a solid endorsement of the work we’re doing out there and will enable us to do even more.”
In addition to its Whio conservation work the FLR Trust runs a restoration project aimed at boosting the wild-grown population of the flamboyant and extremely rare shrub called the Kakabeak, undertakes various pest control and eradication initiatives and assists with the re-introduction of forest birds to previously abandoned habitats. It’s also fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.