For the first time in its history, Te Anau’s Punanga Manu bird sanctuary has welcomed a breeding pair of whio – establishing a captive breeding program at the sanctuary.
Funding from Genesis and Real Journeys will create a new role to oversee the captive pair, and educate the public about this rare native species during the summer season.
DOC Senior Ranger Andrew (Max) Smart says this takes the total count of breeding pairs in captivity from four to five across the country, contributing to the overall South Island whio breeding program.
“Having a pair in captivity is a lot more reliable than relying on collecting eggs from wild nests for secure breeding programs. This pair has the potential to produce three clutches per annum after two years, which will contribute to the South Island breeding program and enable us to supplement populations in the upper South Island.”
The whio were welcomed to their new home by Stewart Bull of Ōraka-Aparima – Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
Both Genesis and Real Journeys have been whio supporters for a long time – Genesis has been DOC’s national partner in whio recovery since 2011, while Real Journeys has been supporting whio since 2004 through its stoat control programme and by funding translocation efforts.
Genesis Sustainability Manager Jessica Rodger said the addition of the breeding pair in Te Anau will help secure the future of the whio.
“With fewer than 3,000 ducks left, whio are rarer than some other New Zealand iconic species so it’s great to have a new whio breeding pair to support population growth.”
Real Journeys General Manager Paul Norris says, “We’re very pleased to continue to support efforts to increase the whio population. They’re such unique little characters and it’s especially exciting to have this pair based here near our head office in Te Anau!”
DOC ranger Catherine Brimecombe says whio ducklings were last reared at the sanctuary in 2010/11 using eggs collected from wild pairs.
“We are delighted to add whio to the list of active breeding programs that the sanctuary supports.
“While the adult birds will only be visible to the public as part of the daily feeding time tour, duckling watching (once they hatch) can be enjoyed by all during daylight hours.”
Fish & Game, who own the land that the sanctuary operates on, is also involved in this next step for whio.
Bill Jarvie of Fish & Game Southland says Fish & Game is delighted to work in partnership with DOC in the conservation of whio.
“These birds exemplify the wild character of our backcountry rivers which both Fish and Game and DOC work so hard to protect for all New Zealanders.”