Last season New Zealand’s Department of Conservation collected 13 eggs from 3 wild whio nests and delivered them to the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre for artificial incubation and hand raising. The birds are now 8 months old and have been collected to inject new genetics in to the captive breed-for-release program. These birds have now been flocked in 3 groups to choose their own mate as this method tends to increase breeding success. Once pairs have been completed, they will be sent to other captive institution and the remaining birds released back to wild sites.
Whio is one of only three species amongst the world’s other 159 waterfowl that live year round on fast-flowing rivers. The others are found in South America and New Guinea
The whio is one of a handful of torrent duck species worldwide. It is a river specialist which inhabits clean, fast flowing streams in the forested upper catchments of New Zealand rivers. They are endemic to New Zealand so are found nowhere else in the world.
Whio nest along the riverbanks. They are flightless during the moult period which makes them extremely vulnerable to attacks from stoats, cats, ferrets, and dogs. Their persistence cannot be secured on off shore islands like many of endangered species because of their need for fast flowing water.
The captive breed for release program is an important tool in their recovery.
Whio are an indicator of healthy rivers and streams, an icon of New Zealand’s waterways and feature on the $10 note.
Author: Todd Jenkinson – Conservation Manager