Whio-saving technology up for award

Department of Conservation —  22/11/2014

“You’re good at killing things and saving things, but your information management is too hit and miss…” ~ Genesis Energy.

That was then. 

Now, the project connected to that conversation is up for an award for its new information management app. 

DOC’s Tauranga based GIS ‘map geek’ Martin Slimin explains…

Blue duck / whio

Blue duck / whio

That conversation—between a Genesis Energy staffer and myself—was about saving blue duck / whio, a bird rarer than our kiwi.

The guy was right. Our data was quite anecdotal and scattered when it came to usable figures.

In 2012 Genesis Energy partnered up with DOC, Forest and Bird and the wider community, to launch the Whio Forever project. And when Genesis Energy heard about a mobile data collection device DOC was trialling to collect better information in the Te Urewera Mainland Island, they were interested.

Further discussion around its potential was enough for Genesis Energy to want ‘in’.

Close-up of Trimble: waterproof and rugged

Close-up of Trimble: waterproof and rugged

The device developed is the user-friendly Whio Information Manager app. This tool has since proved a huge boon, enabling more accurate collection of data for trapping stoats, the whio’s main predator, and counting actual whio numbers.

How does it work?

The app was installed in a phone-sized ‘Trimble’ device. Trappers can leave it in their pocket if nothing’s caught in a trap.

GPS located by the trap will automatically record that the trap was checked, when, by who, if it was baited and with what.

If stoats (or other catch) are caught the trapper enters the detail then resets the trap.

Using the Trimble device to count breeding pairs of whio.

Using the Trimble device to count breeding pairs of whio

Once back in Internet range this is transmitted to the national database, providing a clear picture of the stoat population.

Bird count data is similarly collected for the national data base, enabling a complete and accurate picture of whio population sizes and locations across the country.

Ranger at desk with PC and Trimble device.

Whio Manager app—providing accurate data

‘We put a lot of effort into that one component but it now has spin-offs for working with other trapping regimes to protect species other than just whio,’ says Martin.

What do our Rangers think?

“The Whio Information Management app is an incredibly useful tool. It saves a lot of double and, in some cases, triple-handling of data. It’s easy to work with and anyone can learn the basics for inputting and retrieving information very quickly.” ~ Andrew ‘Max’ Smart, Biodiversity Ranger, Fiordland.

“The app has enabled more effective local management of whio recovery programmes; it has provided quality information and systems for research, education and advocacy.” ~ Andrew Glaser, Partnership Ranger and National Whio Recovery Group Leader.

One clever little trap app!

Leon is a stoat trapper and lives off the grid in the Retaruke Valley. As part of the Kia Wharite initiative to employ tangata whenua he is contracted by Horizons Regional Council to trap stoats on the Retaruke River.

Once a week he travels into Taumaranui for his weekly groceries. While there he pulls up beside the public library, where his Trimble uses the free Wi-Fi to sync his trapping data and GPS track log; it also provides evidence of the work performed and Leon is paid accordingly.

Initially the app. was used across the eight Whio Security sites. Now it’s used by almost all the Whio Recovery Sites and community initiatives protecting whio; all will use it by early 2015.

Whio Forever is now projected to reach its 2019 target of breeding pairs by 2016.

Thanks to the app’s success, Whio Forever has decided to allow use of the technology for wider conservation use. As part of this, an Android smart device version of the application is being trialled to ease adoption by community groups and more front country trapping programmes.

The programme is a finalist in the NZ Spatial Excellence Awards; winners will be announced November 26. In June it also collected an Environment Ministry Green Ribbon Award.

One response to Whio-saving technology up for award


    Excellent article. Is there any correlation between the trapping numbers of pests and an increase in blue duck numbers?