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Unexpected Find Shows Maungataniwha Key for Whio Survival

03 July 2012

A team of river-rafting conservationists were surprised to find a thriving population of endangered Whio in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in the inland Hawke's Bay. Whio, also known as the Blue Duck, are found on the $10 note and are classified as nationally vulnerable with a scattered population which is thought to be in decline.

 The 6000 hectare block owned by Tasti’s Executive Chairman, Simon Hall and managed by his Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust was known to be home to a small number of Whio however the size of population stunned the team made up of members of both the FLR Trust and the Department of Conservation (DOC). The census, found 19 breeding pairs along 41km of waterway, a density described by the Trust as "immensely encouraging". It also found 13 single ducks and 29 juveniles along the same stretches of water.

Similar Whio densities at the FLR Trust's nearby Pohokura property, and duplicated in informal counts elsewhere at Maungataniwha, indicate that substantial populations are likely to exist in the area according to Pete Shaw, FLR trustee and Maungataniwha Native Forest estate manager.

"To go up the back country and see just one is so special ... given their numbers are declining we're pleasantly surprised to see that they seem to be doing so well up there." Shaw said. "We're hoping these results indicate at least a partial plateau in the decline of Whio across inland Hawke's Bay,"

A post-survey report issued by the Trust and DOC says Whio numbers in the Maungataniwha block now exceed the population density of many other sites. Predators such as Stoats have played a key role in the decline of the species. DOC says the area's Whio are benefitting from the extensive predator trapping undertaken by the FLR Trust in support of its Maungataniwha Kiwi Project, one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. The Maungataniwha area has been included in the Department of Conservation Natural Heritage Management System (NHMS) as an ecosystem that is a good representative of its type nationally.

To find out more about the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust click here 


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