Sorrel Hoskin, from DOC’s Taranaki Area Office, writes about St Joseph’s Primary School’s recent visit to Egmont National Park to learn about the work being done to protect the endangered whio/blue duck:
Combine 90 excited primary school kids, two passionate DOC rangers, and an enthusiastic regional council educator. Top up with fun facts about whio and mix well. Result? A slightly chaotic but fun filled day of learning about one of our special species, the whio.
Taranaki school students recently spent a day out in Egmont National Park. As it was Whio Awareness Month DOC staff took the opportunity to share some of the work they do on the mountain to help protect the endangered duck.
Biodiversity ranger Emily King usually works with whio and kiwi – so a gaggle of chattering five year olds was a whole new experience, but she soon had them captivated with cool facts about our only white water swimming duck.
There are around 60 whio living in Egmont National Park and ongoing monitoring and pest control is key to their survival and population growth. DOC carries out this work with support from the Central North Island Conservation Charitable Blue Duck Trust and East Taranaki Environment Trust. The good news is the population is growing.
Whio Awareness Month was celebrated throughout New Zealand to recognise the “Whio Forever” project, a Genesis Energy/DOC partnership helping implement a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat. The idea is to double the number of fully secure breeding sites throughout the country and boost pest control to enhance productivity and survival.
Community relations ranger Mike Tapp set up a game of predator hide and seek along a bush walk. Kids had fun finding the stoat, rat, cat, weasel and ferret hidden amongst the undergrowth, and learnt about some of the key predators of the whio and other native birds.
Taranaki Regional Council’s Kevin Archer took groups of children for a walk through some of the forest – pointing out where whio and other native birds might like to live.
While feedback from the students was mixed and often amusing (who knew that polar bears were a major predator of whio?) some of the key messages were getting through.
Five year old Jordon’s favorite part of the day was seeing Ranger Mike set off the predator trap to squash the animals that attack whio, “The trap went SNAP!”
St Joseph’s teacher Jenna Sullivan said the day had been a great success and showed how a school, DOC and the regional council can come together to create a real hands on learning experience for the kids.