June 6, 2023
Collective conservation effort results in big win for New Zealand Native Birds
A fundraising effort by Blood Origins, a US-based non-profit promoting conservation and ethical hunting practices, has given a significant financial boost to three New Zealand organisations that lead conservation projects in both the North and South Island to protect vulnerable populations of Whio (Blue Duck) and Kiwi.
In February 2023, Blood Origins provided $75,000 USD (approximately NZD 112,400) to the Central North Island Sika Foundation, the Eastern Whio Link Project, and the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation in support of their hunter-led predator control projects.
The funds raised assist the organisations to focus further on three different biodiversity hotspots in New Zealand: the beech forests of the Kaimanawa Forest Park and the upper reaches of the Waioeka Gorge in the North Island, and the Lower Glaisnock Valley in the South Island.
The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation predator trapping program, which started in 2005 in the wilderness area of the Fiordland National Park, operates in conjunction with the Department of Conservation.
“The Blood Origins project picked up the Lower Glaisnock Valley, the most famous Fiordland Wapiti Valley, because it’s the gateway to the Wapiti area. Native species in the area like Kiwi, Kea and Whio are benefiting greatly from this work, and voluntary groups likes of ours cannot survive without financial support from the likes of Blood Origins,” said Roy Sloan General Manager of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation.
The Central North Island Sika Foundation has been actively involved in a Whio predator control project in the Kaimanawa Forest Park since 2018. During his recent visit to New Zealand, Robbie Kroger from Blood Origins spent a week in the Kaimanawas with Sika Foundation volunteers where he was shown the ins and outs of the Whio protection program.
Cam Speedy, wildlife biologist and Secretary for the Sika Foundation, said the Foundation is hugely appreciative of Blood Origins’ support for this and the other nationally important conservation projects.
“Whio is a true taonga (treasured) species of New Zealand, which is currently listed as threatened and nationally vulnerable. They depend on active conservation management to survive predation from mammals that were introduced to the landscape.”
The third recipient is the Eastern Whio Link Project, which began in the Waioeka Gorge when there was a remnant population of just four pairs. In mid-2020, Eastern Whio Link established more than 30kms of trap line, which was enough river to home 30 breeding pairs of Whio.
“By significantly reducing pest populations throughout the gorge, we are not just helping Whio, but also improving the habitat and reducing the predatory threat for other native bird species such as North Island brown Kiwi,” says Sam Gibson of the Eastern Whio Project.
“These funds help make access so much more efficient, which makes us more efficient in trapping predators,” he said.
Robbie Kroger, executive director of Blood Origins, said he is proud of the work these three groups continue to do and that they are glad they’ve been able to financially support it.
“Our goal is to find and fund projects that demonstrate the impact hunters and conservationists can have when we work together. These projects have the potential to grow and bring back the Whio and Kiwi populations to more sustainable levels and help the health of the ecosystems.”
He said: “Isn’t that the goal for everyone who cares about the environment? Regardless of whether you hunt or are against hunting, our goals are all the same, to invest in our ecosystems so that our kids and grandkids can see amazing wildlife like Whio and Kiwis in New Zealand, lions and elephants in Africa, and Elk and Black bears in the United States.”
The funds are being used to purchase traps, bait and lures, and support volunteer efforts to reach trap lines by helicopter, as well as providing maintenance funding for quads and vehicles responsible for transporting volunteers to set and service the trap lines.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation claims Whio populations have tripled at managed sites in the past decade because of predator trapping programs which target non-native species such as stoats, ferrets and rats which feast on eggs and hatchlings, preventing many birds from reaching full maturity.
The estimated costs to run a volunteer-led predator control program are at least $45,000 per year. There are many people who contribute, often travelling significant distances to participate, which counts for thousands of much needed volunteer hours. Without sponsorship and dedicated volunteers, this work would simply not be possible.
Blood Origins is a US-based non-profit and global leader on the forefront of conservation. To learn more about this and other projects, and how to donate, visit the website.