Date: 10 March 2020
March is Whio Awareness month and DOC is holding the training to help further protect this rare duck species.
Taranaki’s whio population is doing so well the ducks are beginning to venture beyond the safety of Egmont National Park into areas where they may be encountered by farm or hunting dogs.
Once considered functionally extinct in Taranaki due to devastation by rats and stoats and loss of habitat, there are now about 40 pairs throughout the park. Whio are rarer than some species of kiwi, with a national population between 2000 and 3000.
Twenty dogs were put through training last year, receiving an avian aversion certificate valid for 12 months.
Avian avoidance training is a DOC tool to help reduce the threat dogs pose to native birds, particularly kiwi and whio. As part of the training, dogs are fitted with an electric shock collar before being guided through a trail with three stations. Each station items to appeal to the dog’s senses, including whio nesting material and feathers.
If the dog shows an interest in these objects it will receive a short, electric shock from the trainer. The dog thinks the shock came from the whio and learns to avoid the birds.
Even the most obedient, domesticated dogs are capable of sniffing out and killing whio with ease, says DOC ranger Joe Carson. “Putting dogs through this training will help protect our whio into the future.”
The aversion training is being held at Everett Park on March 17. To register your dog contact the DOC New Plymouth office on +64 6 759 0350.
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