Archives For Whio Awareness Month

Liz Carlson, of the popular travel blog Young Adventuress, shares 10 things you may not know about our endangered blue duck for Whio Awareness Month.

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We follow the work over a season with the Whio Recovery Programme at the Central Southern Alps Security Site.

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We’re celebrating Whio Awareness Month! It’s a whole month (1 – 31 March) dedicated to our endangered whio/blue duck.

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Whio Awareness Month in March saw over 200 blue rubber ducks race down Te Anau’s Upukerora River for the ‘Great Fiordland Whio Race’.

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Our photo of the week is of the Great Fiordland Whio Race on Te Anau’s Upukerora River last weekend.

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Whio Awareness Month got off to an early start with the release of six blue duck/whio on Mount Taranaki last Friday.

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Last year Genesis Energy held the first Great Whio Adventure competition. The top prize was a family trip to spend a day catching and tagging whio with DOC Rangers. Communications & Engagement Advisor Robyn Orchard reports back from the day:

The Brand family from Wellington were the North Island winners of the Great Whio Adventure competition and arrived in Whakapapa Village in late January. Jürgen, his wife Sarah, and their sons, Joshua, 18, Heinrich 14 and Daniel 12, had already spent a day white water rafting, but this didn’t stop them from returning to the local rivers with the DOC rangers in search of whio.

Daniel Brand standing holding one of the juvenile whio.

Daniel Brand with one of the juvenile whio before they were released

DOC Rangers, Ali Beath, Dean Flavell, Andy Glaser and Malcolm Swanney, were joined by Bubs Smith from Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro (local hapu), conservation-dogs Neo and Fern, and myself.

We all got kitted up with wetsuits and raincoats before the rangers gave us briefing and then it was off in a convoy of vehicles to a whio site in the Mangetepopo Stream, in the Tongariro Forest.

After a steep and muddy descent the rangers showed us how they find and catch the whio for checking, tagging and releasing.

Two rangers tag a mother whio duck before release.

Ruapehu Biodiversity Rangers Ali Beath and Dean Flavell tagging a mother whio duck

With the help of Neo and Fern we located a group of whio upstream. The rangers unpacked and set up a fine net across the width of the stream. The whio were gently ushered downstream and into the net where the Brand family and I were hiding, ready to grab the strong-swimming ducks.

“Try and make yourself blend in and look like a tree or a rock,” said Ali. I’m not sure that any of us looked like trees or rocks as we stood in water trying to stay quiet and still.

A family of five whio were captured in the net and held above the water by each of the Brand family members until they were untangled from the net and placed in the holding bags. One of the juveniles staged a daring escape but was quickly tracked down and shepherded back upriver by Andy and Neo.

Whio dogs and handlers beside a river before the whio release.

Malcom, Fern, Jürgen, Andy and Neo. Fern was put through her paces that day to be certified as a whio dog… she passed.

With all whio accounted for, the Brand family then helped microchip the ducks and place colour bands on their legs for identification. All whio get micro-chipped as a permanent identification method. The microchip is inserted into the back of the neck using a needle and will stay there for life. Adult ducks then have three colour bands put on their legs with each bird getting a different combination of colours. This allows the rangers to recognise each duck individually.

This combined identification method also allows the rangers to read the microchips with a scanner and gather information on how old each duck is, who their mate is, the size of their territory and other details. This data is stored on a national database and is available through the Genesis Energy funded scanning tools.

Following the checks and tagging it was time to return the mildly inconvenienced whio back into their stream. The Brand family took one whio each and together, released them into the rapids.

The Brand family releasing five whio into the river.

Watched by the conservation dog handlers and dogs, the Brand family release the family of five whio back into the river

We then left the stream just as the rain clouds closed in, and as we trudged (some of us trudging more than others) back up to the vehicles with the rain bucketing down. I was exhausted and could hardly put one foot in front of the other as I brought up the rear (thanks to Joshua for taking my backpack off me and Dean for carrying my rain jacket). I think I will either get fit at DOC or collapse trying!

The Brand Family loved their adventure prize, especially the chance to walk in the wet boots of the DOC rangers for a day.


Enjoy your own family whio adventure!

Whio Forever are running the Great Whio Adventure competition again. If you know of a family that would enjoy this unique prize, encourage them to enter by 12 April on the Whio Forever website.