Max and Falco with whio at the river
Image: Mat Goodman | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Fiordland’s whio are in the midst of a population comeback thanks to an ongoing programme of predator control.

Date:  18 April 2019

Following a record breeding season in 2017/18 which saw 107 whio ducklings added to the population, 64 breeding pairs were found when the security site was surveyed in March and April this year.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger, Andrew (Max) Smart says this means the northern Fiordland site is the first in the South Island to exceed the target of 50 breeding pairs.

“Security sites are the highest priority whio conservation areas in the country, there are four in the North Island and four in the South Island. The target of 50 breeding pairs is set for each security site through the Whio Recovery Plan. A couple of sites on the North Island have reached this target, but we’re the first confirmed site on the South Island to do so.”

Whio have come a long way since 1999/2000 when only three pairs were found in this security site, Max says.

“This year’s number is only a minimum and there could be up to another nine pairs.”

“Extended trapping efforts and landscape scale predator control have enabled the whio here, and at key sites around New Zealand to make a strong comeback. This work is principally supported by Genesis through the Whio Forever programme, with notable support from Air New Zealand and other community partners such as the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation and Real Journeys at the Northern Fiordland Whio Security Site.”

Each year whio are monitored using walk-through river surveys using specially trained conservation dogs, a programme supported in partnership with Kiwibank. Two surveys are planned for each river annually. The first survey, in November/December, counts the number of ducklings, as well the number of individual birds and pairs seen. The second survey, generally undertaken in January/February, counts the number of fledglings.

Exceeding this target is great news for whio, but according to Max, there is still a lot of work to do to secure a future for this species.

“We are only doing work over a relatively small area and this is where we are making a difference. Predator control has to be kept up and expanded for whio to have a chance to increase in number and spread over their natural range.”

Whio Forever

Learn more about whio conservation across the country by visiting the Whio Forever website.

Whio Forever is a partnership with Genesis. Around New Zealand, the support of Genesis is enabling DOC to double the number of fully secure whio breeding sites, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks. 


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