A successful Hawke’s Bay whio, or blue duck, conservation project has received a $10,000 maintenance grant 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 maintain the extensive network of predator traps funded by a four-year, $107,500 cash injection from Whio Forever announced in October 2012. The work is being done on the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, a 6,120 hectare expanse of bush south of Te Urewera National Park in inland Hawke’s Bay.
The Maungataniwha whio protection project includes establishing a secure breeding area for whio by exterminating predators and pests, conducting research into resident populations and monitoring breeding patterns.
The Trust now operates 870 mustelid traps in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in partnership with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, up from 333 in 2012. 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.”
In 2012 the catchment areas of the Waiau and Te Hoe rivers bordering the Trust’s Maungataniwha property was 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.
“The funding is helping to 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.
“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 extremely grateful for this ongoing support from Whio Forever. It’s a solid endorsement of the work we’re doing out there and will enable this to continue.”
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.
About the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of fauna and flora, and to restore the ngahere mauri (forest lifeforce) in native forests within the Central North Island.
It runs eight main regeneration and restoration projects, involving native New Zealand flora and fauna, on three properties in the central North Island. It also owns a property in the South Island’s Fiordland National Park.