Central North Island Sika Foundation Kaimanawa Whio Recovery Project Update

On Friday, 22 February, a team of seven volunteers went into the Kaipo River in the headwaters of the Mohaka River in the Kaimanawa Forest Park to carry out a full service on the traps in Stage 1 of the Central North Island Sika Foundation Whio Recovery Project. In August last year, 110 Goodnature A24 stoat and rat traps purchased with funds donated by sponsors were installed by a team of volunteers organised by the Central North Island Sika Foundation on the Kaipo River protecting 10km of Whio habitat. The Goodnature A24 traps are perfect for this type of remote location as they can be left for six months before they need servicing, although we do go in and check the counters on the traps periodically to see how many predators we are removing.

It is now six months since these traps in stage 1 were installed so the team went in and replaced the lure, gas canisters and checked and zeroed the counters on each trap. Meeting at Helisika at 7.00am on Friday, four of the team were flown into the top end of the trap line by Helisika free of charge, these four split into two teams of two and worked their way down each side of the river while the remaining three team members drove through Poronui to the Kaimanawa Forest Park boundary then walked into the Kaipo from there and split into two teams and worked their way up river to meet up with the two teams working down from the top end, all meeting back at the Oamaru hut at about 4.00pm.

A bit wet from the rain after another big day on the river but still full of enthusiasm and a sense of satisfaction at being part of such an important conservation project, as Whio are only found in New Zealand and are classified by the Department of Conservation as being a nationally vulnerable species and face the risk of becoming extinct.

104 additional kills were recorded in the three months since we last checked the counters on 21 November last year, making a total of 488 predator kills in the six months since the traps were installed. While it is satisfying to remove so many predators, the end goal is to provide safe habitat so the Whio population in the area can increase and flourish naturally.

We are seeing early evidence of success, as we sited a pair of Whio with five young nearly at the fledgling stage in the lower end of the trap line while we were checking the counters in November, and we have had reports of another pair with four young near the top end of the trap line, so encouraging results at this early stage of the project.

We carried out a survey of both the Kaipo and Oamaru rivers before we started the project in August last year with one pair being sited on each river, we will carry out another survey at a later date to keep a track of numbers so we can gauge the success of the project as time goes on

Last weekend, a team of 16 volunteers went into the Oamaru River and installed another 73 Goodnature A24 traps for stage 2 of the project, protecting the 10km of the Oamaru River from where it meets the Kaipo River upstream to the Waitawhero Stream, so we now have 20km of protected Whio habitat in the area. This project is primarily aimed at protecting the Whio population but other native wildlife will also benefit from having the predator numbers kept at lower levels in the area.

We are now raising funds for stage 3 of the project, to protect a further 10km of Whio habitat in this location.

As always a special thanks to Poronui for allowing us vehicle access through their property, without this we would not be able to manage this project, and Helisika who fly our teams into the top end of the trap lines free of charge, making this project more manageable, saving our volunteers a lot of walking and time. Also a special thanks to all of our sponsors, please support our sponsors whenever you can as without their generous support we would not have a project, and of course a big thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers who give up their time with some travelling considerable distances to help out.

Gary Harwood, Project Coordinator

Find out more about the project, and who our sponsors are here…