I was sitting down to research a short article about the Whio (“fee-o”), or Blue Duck, when I discovered that March is actually Whio Awareness Month. So it was a good time to be thinking about these things. When we were working at Welcome Flat Hut recently we were told that they could be seen frequenting the Copland River. The Whio likes fast flowing river systems and is one of only four duck species in the world to live in this environment. We had been at Welcome Flat Hut for one week when we spotted a pair feeding underneath the Copland Bridge, which is only a short two-minute walk from the hut.
The Whio is important because it is endemic to New Zealand but it is also an indicator species and therefore their presence can be used to measure the health of river ecosystems. The Whio Awareness Month forms part of the wider Whio Forever project, which is being run by the Department of Conservation and Genesis Energy as part of their 5-year, $2.5 million business partnership. This is a joint effort that commenced in 2011 with the aim of securing the future of New Zealand’s rare and endangered Whio. However, for at least 8 years prior to this Genesis Energy had been involved in a Whio recovery program in the Tongariro area.
The last I read, there were only a few thousand pairs of Whio remaining in New Zealand. They are an endangered species and listed as Nationally Vulnerable. Due to this their recovery is actively managed and they are at particular threat from stoats.
So March is Whio Awareness Month and at The Bloke we are playing our part by drawing attention to the plight of the Blue Duck. If you want to get involved then visit the Whio Forever Project website or facebook page to see how you can help. During March they are running competitions and there is a Whio Family Fun Day being held at Auckland Zoo. If you want to report a Whio sighting to the Department of Conservation then you can do so here.