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Call To Save Blue Duck From Functional Extinction


June 29, 2003 - Wellington

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Forest and Bird call to rescue endangered blue duck from imminent "functional extinction"

Forest and Bird today appealed to all who love the mountains to support efforts to save the endangered blue duck (whio) from extinction following the alarming news that these birds may be gone from much of their range within 10 years.

The head of the Department of Conservation's Blue Duck Recovery Group has warned that the Whio (blue duck) may be extinct over much of its range within 10 years in the June edition of DOC's threatened species newsletter 'Rare Bits'.

Recovery Group leader Tim Shaw warned that it is 'almost the 11th hour for yet another unique taonga'.

In the newsletter Mr Shaw stated "if the present rate of decline in whio populations is not addressed, the species will be functionally extinct from much of its present range within the next ten years".

He also stated that 'the bulk of unmanaged populations will be lost in the short to medium term' and that 'management to address the decline of many whio populations has been left too late, and the birds are already gone'.

Today, Forest and Bird President Dr Gerry McSweeney said most of those who tramp, climb, hunt, and fish in the more remote mountains of NZ know blue duck.

"Over the last 100 years, blue duck have been driven out from lowland and accessible parts of New Zealand by farming development, hydro dams and competition with introduced trout," he said.

"Their last stronghold is in the mountain rivers of the North Island's central plateau, eastern ranges and the mountains of the South Island from Northwest Nelson to Fiordland. Over recent years throughout that range the blue duck population has collapsed. The culprit is almost certainly predation by stoats," he said.

"In my own neighbouring national park - Arthur's Pass National Park - blue ducks have almost disappeared in the last 3 years. They are also disappearing from Kahurangi National Park. Recent surveys on the West Coast show a massive reduction in the number of blue duck and the extent of their range over the last 10 years," he said.

"DOC has embarked on stoat control of traps along some rivers, including 65km of traps along the Dart River in Mt Aspiring National Park. Sadly, there is clear evidence that riverside stoat trapping is adequate to sustain these rare birds in the medium to long term. Stoats re-invade from outside the river corridor and they attack not just blue duck chicks but even adult birds. Areas of the Dart where stoats are being trapped no longer have blue ducks," he said.

"Forest and Bird calls on the government to investigate "whole catchment" predator control programmes to save blue duck. I urge anyone who cares to get in behind Forest and Bird's campaign and report blue duck sightings to Forest and Bird," he said.

NOTES

Contact: Dr Gerry McSweeney, President. Ph. 03 318 9246 Geoff Keey, Biosecurity Awareness Officer. 04 385 7374 (w) 025 227 8420

Copies of the relevant sections of the DOC newsletter and report are available from Forest and Bird. Ring Geoff Keey on 025 227 8420

Functional extinction occurs when there are no more females in an area so no breeding can occur. Complete extinction occurs as the remaining males die off.


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