Date: 12 January 2012
Fourteen young wild whio, ready to fledge, have had a helping hand in finding a suitable new home within Fiordland.
The transfer by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff with assistance from Real Journeys is part of a trial to help boost whio numbers in areas under sustained predator control that currently have few resident whio.
The 10-11 week old whio were transferred from the Milford Track’s Clinton and Arthur Valleys, which are home to a good numbers of whio pairs, to the Neale Burn, west of the Eglinton Valley.
Juvenile whio in Neale Burn
DOC Biodiversity Ranger Andrew (Max) Smart said these juveniles would have naturally dispersed but may have gone into areas currently not trapped, therefore increasing the risk of predation from stoats. By capturing these juveniles and moving them to an area that is trapped it is hoped that a majority will remain, pair up and establish their own territories.
“Stoats have been identified as a major cause of decline in the whio population” Mr Smart said. “By transferring these birds to the Neale Burn we are increasing their chances of survival and also potentially speeding up the time to their first breeding attempt as they can establish breeding territories sooner”.
Real Journeys, who have been sponsoring whio in Fiordland since 2005, have played a significant role in this trial. “Without their support it would not have been possible to undertake this work” Mr Smart said. “Real Journeys have helped us financially and also had staff assist with surveying and the transfers”.
As part of the Northern Fiordland Whio Security Site, this area is one of eight sites in New Zealand established for the protection of whio. The goal of each of these sites is to achieve a population of 50 or more pairs of whio by 2017.
In northern Fiordland alone, over 163 km of waterways are now under sustained stoat control. This area currently holds 44 pairs of whio. The Neale Burn is one of the few rivers with stoat control in place that currently has low pair numbers. The upper reaches of the Neale Burn has only had stoat control in place for a few years. The trapping programme in the Clinton began in 2000.
“This work has been ongoing since 2000 and it is great to see the marked increase in whio over this time”. Mr Smart said. “Working in conjunction with sponsors and community groups has been the key to its success”.
In areas that do not receive predator control whio numbers are still in decline.