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Int recognition of blue duck’s endangered status

International recognition of blue duck’s endangered status

The World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) raising of the international conservation status of New Zealand’s blue duck or whio was a timely warning to New Zealand according to Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

Mr Carter said the reassessment of whio from vulnerable to endangered on the IUCN Red List brought world conservation status was a sobering confirmation of the threat classification accorded the species by the Department of Conservation.

“Whio is one of New Zealand’s most distinctive birds and is found nowhere else in the world. Many people treasure their sightings of them bobbing down the rapids on wild backcountry rivers. Sadly, the bird is in serious trouble and the World Conservation Union have now recognised the peril it is in,” said Mr Carter.

“Stoats appear to be the biggest predator for this nationally endangered species. Video surveillance of whio nesting in Fiordland has shown stoats killing them on the nest and eating their eggs.

“Whio are still relatively widespread in New Zealand, with population strongholds in the central North Island, in Kahurangi National Park and in South Westland and Fiordland. But with nests being robbed and nesting females falling prey to stoats, the species is in gradual decline.”

Mr Carter says DOC has a recovery plan in action for the whio, which has an estimated population of 2000-3000 individual birds.

“The focus of the recovery plan is on identifying the reasons for decline and deciding how best to manage those factors. The recovery team has already identified the key factors behind the decline of whio in particular habitats, but it is important to establish whether those reasons are the same throughout the country, or whether each habitat is different.

“The issue of predator protection for this species is also not straightforward. Whio cannot simply be put on an island, because there are no islands with the right habitat for this species. One central North Island whio habitat does have protection from stoats because it forms part of mainland island sanctuary, and DOC is investigating other blue duck habitats with predator protection in mind.” Mr Carter said the best news for the species in recent times was the establishment of the Central North Island Blue Duck Conservation Trust which arose out of the renewal of resource consents for the Tongariro Power Scheme. The Trust was established in August through an agreement between Genesis Power, DoC and Forest and Bird.

“This Trust, thanks to funding from Genesis, will be putting $1.5 million into the protection of this endangered species over the next 10 years.”

Mr Carter said that the survival of whio was not assured and would require a major conservation effort over the coming years.

“But this is a fight we must win as a wild river that lacks the call of the whio has lost part of its soul or mauri.”

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