In late August, the Ruahine Whio Collective held their annual hui. Eight groups of volunteers make up this collective, working to conserve the whio, New Zealand's rare native blue duck. Introduced stoats, weasels and rats are the main predators of whio, particularly their eggs and ducklings, as like many of our native birds, they nest on the ground. In total, over 2,500 stoat traps and hundreds of rat traps are maintained in the Northern and Central Ruahine Ranges.
Our local group is the Oroua/Pohangina Blue Duck Protection Project. Thirty regular and not-so-regular volunteers maintain around 500 traps; this year they caught 52 stoats and weasels, and 427 rats. Total recorded catches since 2008 are 593 mustelids and 3208 rats. Anecdotal evidence suggests that trapping work is helping to significantly boost the whio population; this year, whio were regularly seen in many of the trapped areas. There were regular sightings on the Pohangina River, and three pairs were seen with large ducklings. Leon Kinvig hut is reportedly a great place to see whio, and all the trampers’ huts have whio living nearby. A survey with a trained whio dog to establish population numbers is planned for the future. If you are interested in helping with the trapping work, have good fitness and some back country experience, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A hui is held once a year, bringing all the members of the collective together to talk over what they have achieved over the previous year, and to learn from each other and to look ahead to the future. This year there was a great turnout with representatives from all groups making up the collective, plus the Department of Conservation and other interested parties.
The Ruahine Whio Protection Trust raises funds for the protection of whio in the Ruahine Ranges. Contact them if you would like to donate to this work.