BY Frances Chin – January 14 2022
The first two whio ducklings born in the wild since their reintroduction to Abel Tasman National Park have been spotted.
Four captive-bred whio (blue ducks) were released into in Wainui Stream in Abel Tasman in 2018. One of those birds, a banded female, is one of the parents of the new ducklings.A total of 15 whio have been released into the national park, and there will be further releases this year of young birds hatched at the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch. Four birds were introduced in September 2021.
The two ducklings were spotted just before Christmas by Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger John Henderson, who said he was pleased to see the birds had settled enough into the park to breed successfully.
“We have been keeping an eye to for signs of breeding, so it was very heartening to see these young birds – it makes all the effort worthwhile.
According to the Department of Conservation, under 3000 whio exist in New Zealand, making them a threatened species.
Project Janszoon alongside DOC, iwi, and the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust were responsible for introducing the birds to the park, as part of an effort to restore and maintain Abel Tasman’s native wildlife and ecosystem.
The collaboration between the groups meant that 90 per cent of the park was covered by a trapping network, allowing native birds such as kaka and pāteke to be introduced to the area.
Alongside whio, 90 pāteke have been released into the national park since 2017.
Project Janszoon Director Bruce Vander Lee said finding the first wild-born whio in the park was a milestone for the project.
“There is so much that goes into predator control, captive breeding and release of native birds into the park – and then you wait and hope they will breed successfully.
“Together with our partners, we’ve done all we can to provide whio with a safe habitat, so to get word of them breeding successfully means we are making visible progress towards our goal of a sustainable population.”
Project Janszoon board member Aneika Young (Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa) said whio were a taonga species for mana whenua.
“To see the manu returning and breeding is an expression of our ability to restore the park ecosystem.
“Whio are a key indicator for the health of the freshwater bodies in the park.
“The news that they are breeding successfully reflects back on our role as kaitaiki to sustain and restore this precious environment.”
Image: Ruth Bollongino/Fern Photos