Whio Awareness Month

Photo: Whio Duckling. Whio Forever

The Sika Foundation is, once again, celebrating Whio Awareness Month this March by promoting our nationally endangered Blue Duck through a number of special events and projects.

Sika Foundation Whio Protection Programme

Dependent on active conservation management to survive predation, Whio populations are benefiting from various collaborative, hunter-led initiatives, such as the Sika Foundation’s Whio Recovery Project.

Working hard to protect Whio within the Kaimanawa Forest Park, this large-scale trapping network, now 43km, is carried out by approx. 250 Sika Foundation volunteers.

Hinemaiaia, Oamaru, Kaipo and Upper Tauranga-Taupo with the latest statistics.

Whio monitoring was conducted recently in the Kaipo and Oamaru catchment by Neo the Whio Dog, with support from the DOC Wild Animal Management Team. This monitoring helps to build a picture of resident Whio pairs and their productivity over time.

Recent Whio monitoring findings in the Kaipo and Oamaru

In the report, it is noted that;

“The current protection of Kaimanawa offers a considerable amount of protection of interconnected waterways. The connectivity will support a source population for the wider area of Kaimanawa to halt the local decline.”

Results show that the current Whio population appears to be maintained, indicating that the highly vulnerable Whio nests are successfully hatching and are reared to fledglings.

Kaipo River Swing Bridge Heli-hike

To encourage wider community support for our conservation work, the Sika Foundation provides an up close and personal experience of our predator control in action, offering Heli-hikes into the Kaipo swing bridge area in January each year.

Helisika AS350 landing participants at the Kaipo swing bridge

Now in its 4th consecutive year, our 2024 Heli-hike saw 21 participants guided approx. 10km by a team of our dedicated volunteers, through mature beech forest and river ecosystems. Stopping along the way, our team spoke about sika herd, monitoring, trapping, ecology, and more. With big thanks to Poronui Station, DoC, and Helisika once again for your support in making this day happen!

Heidi from Kids Greening Taupo on the newly replaced Kaipo River Swing Bridge

Sika Foundation volunteer and Whio Protection Program Coordinator, Josh Van der Valk, demonstrating stoat control in action.

One of our youngest participants spotting Whio along the Kaipo River.

Waipakihi River Valley Predator Control

The newly established predator trapline protecting Whio and Kiwi in the Waipakihi Valley of Kaimanawa Forest Park was installed on 28th January 24, under the umbrella of the Sika Foundation’s Jobs for Nature project. This 5km trapline is part of a wider network on adjoining Māori land, involving a further 150 traps (200 traps in total).  

The network involves a highly collaborative partnership between many different stakeholders such as Kaimanawa Alpine Adventures, Kaimanawa Trust, Rotoaira Forest Trust, Genesis Energy, the NZDA Auckland Branch, and the Department of Conservation.

Just under 40 stoats have been removed from this trapping network since its installation late last year, so is already proving to be a great success!

Map and stats for Waipakihi

On the 28th Jan, NZDA Auckland volunteers installed a further 5km of predator traps in the Waipakihi River Valley. The dogs that came along have both gone through Avian Awareness and Avoidance Training.

Kaimanawa Alpine Adventures (KAA) Heli- hike

To advocate for the newly established trapline in the Waipakihi River Valley and promote the adaptive deer management plan within the neighbouring remote experience zone, we added an additional Heli-hike to the calendar this year with Kaimanawa Alpine Adventures.

This 10km guided Heli-hike started with a scenic flight from Waipakahi Road end (KAA hanger) into the Kaimanawa Trust Lands Block. From the Needles High Point, 28 participants then traversed down along the Heli mountain biking track, and back to the KAA base.

A special thanks to Bubs Smith from Rotoaira Forest Trust for leading the hike on the ground and sharing your exceptional knowledge on Matauranga Māori. Also, to the friendly staff at KAA, and our DoC Community Rangers for your support on the day!

AS350 at the 10km marker point

AS350 at the 10km marker point

Left: Our young, enthusiastic crew. Right: Anita, DoC Community Ranger.

Above: View of Ngauruhoe from the KAA hanger. Left: Crossing the Waikato Iti Bridge. Right: Sika Foundation’s Cam Speedy with a Sika jaw.

Avian Aversion Training

Whio and Kiwi aversion training is a tool which helps to reduce the threat dogs can pose to our precious native birds, and with our Whio Recovery Project expanding and thriving, we have particular interest in this kaupapa.

Over the month of January, 55 dogs took part in these events, with our Sika Foundation members receiving a discounted rate of $15.00 per dog.

The feedback received was great, and we are looking forward to our upcoming event in Hawke’s Bay this month. More details on this to come!

Left: Whio and Kiwi training props. Middle: Hunting dogs attending Avian Aversion Training. Right: Shadow, a Sika Hunting Indicator Dog.

None of this would be possible without our volunteers, partners and sponsors.

A special thanks goes to:

Poronui Station
Department of Conservation
Neo the Whio Dog
NZDA (Taupo & Auckland Branches)
Kaimanawa Alpine Adventures
Stoney Creek
Blood Origins
Willy Marsh
Save the Kiwi
Project Tongariro