Archives For Whio Awareness Month

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.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today kick starts Whio Awareness Month. To celebrate, we profile whio fan Tim Allerby, Ranger—Biodiversity Ranger, in DOC’s Te Urewera/Whirinaki Area Office.

Tim Allerby with whio chicks on the upper Tauranga river.

The first whio chicks on the upper Tauranga river (November 2012) since 2008, well worth the early start

At work

Name: Tim Allerby.

Position: Biodiversity Ranger.

Office: Te Urewera/Whirinaki Area.

Some things I do in my job include…

  • Providing advice/support for whio related operations throughout the Te Urewera/Whirinaki Area and its surrounds.
  • Implementing and managing stoat control operations for whio with the Northern Te Urewera.
  • Carrying out outcome monitoring of whio and kōkako.
  •  Assisting with the trialling of A24 self resetting traps.

The best bit about my job is…
Catching stoats and seeing whio chicks on rivers.

Tim Allerby with stoat traps flown in by helicopter for the upper Tauranga river.

Flying stoat traps into the upper Tauranga River site 2012

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is…

The eruption of disgust, laughter, and bewilderment from thirty-plus totally sucked in kids and adults after I tasted stoat poo (Marmite) to confirm that it was indeed stoat poo during a mock up whio mortality scene investigation.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…
Captain Whio (aka Andrew Glaser)—without his passion and persistence for whio protection we would not be in the position we are at with respect to whio recovery.

Tim Allerby with the Te Urewera Mainland Island team all dressed up.

Captain Whio (Andrew Glaser), Duck Boy and the motley Te Urewera Mainland Island crew

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is…
All I ever need is you – Kenny Rogers and Dottie West.

My stomping ground is…
Waimana Valley in the mighty Te Urewera National Park.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be…
Donald Trump. I would cover every bit of New Zealand conservation land in double set DOC200s (traps) and set aside enough money for those traps to be checked once a month for the next 100 years.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be…
A karearea. They are definitely the boss of the sky.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to…
Become an astronaut. I’d like to look back at Earth from space. Maybe one day Jet Star will do cheap deals?

Tim Allerby during a kokako translocation.

Looking and feeling awesome after stopping a branch from hitting the ground with my head (kōkako translocation 2009)

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…
What’s the worst that could happen? – Kobey Brebner.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is…
No hunter will ever have surplus brownie points so you just have to realise this and accept it.

In work and life I am motivated by…
Doing the best that I can. I always have high expectations of myself in whatever I do so I always push myself to reach those goals.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…
Do as much as you can whenever you can, no matter how little or insignificant you think it may be.

Tim Allerby inserting a transponder into a whio.

Inserting a transponder into a whio

Question of the week…

‘Question of the week’ will differ each week. If you have any suggestions for questions, please leave us a comment.

What’s your signature dish?
Not being the greatest cook I don’t think I can claim a signature dish however I can cook venison a thousand ways. While I am in the bushes I am particularly fond of venison heart, garlic, and onions all fried in a generous lashing of butter.

Watch this video of Tim Allerby talking about his work saving whio/blue duck: