Whio Awareness Month

Celebrating Whio Awareness Month

This month, the Sika Foundation is celebrating the iconic back-country species that features on the New Zealand $10 note, Whio.

Also known as the Blue Duck, Whio are regarded as a natural ‘tohu’ or indicator for the health of our forested rivers and streams. In Aotearoa, this native freshwater bird is classified as ‘Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable’, and is at risk of population decline from mustelids, habitat loss and disturbance. Stoats in particular pose the greatest danger to Whio, especially during breeding season when they are at their most vulnerable.

Through our Whio Protection Programme, Sika Foundation volunteers have been successfully managing a trapping network since 2018 to suppress mustelid predation. The Foundation is progressively expanding this trapping network each year. Thanks to our sponsor Blood Origins, this is set to increase by a further 7km in the Kaipo River and Hinemaiaia River catchments, enabling us to provide a higher level of protection for our local Whio habitat in the Kaimanawa Forest Park.

Whio Protection Programme – Cascade, Kaipo, Oamaru and Hinemaiaia 2023

Over December, January and February, seven trapping volunteers spent a combined total of 10 days in the Cascade completing routine checks on the 100x B200 double-set trap boxes. With plenty of people passing by in December, a coat of paint went on the back wall and interior of the Cascade Hut, and the campsite and toilet also got a general tidy up by our volunteers.

Although a vast slip upstream of the Cascade Hut occurred in late December last year, the recent cyclone fortunately had no effect in the area, and traps were serviced in February without issues.  A noticeable amount of bird life among the beech forest has been reported, and rat and stoat numbers in the traps are at a minimum. The Kaipo and Oamaru River trap lines have also continued to be serviced, however the Hinemaiaia trapline is currently inaccessible due to large windfalls on Clements Mill Rd.

Sika fawn. Photographed in the Cascade by a Sika Foundation trapping volunteer in December 22.
Cambridge ITM and Trapping Lead, John Moreland have been busy making up additional B200 boxes which are now ready to be disbursed into the wider trapping network.
Some of the BT200 box lids in the Oamaru were replaced after enduring heavy wear and tear in the backcountry.
A pair of Whio picked up on a Sika Foundation trail cam near the Oamaru  River in front of an A24 Goodnature trap. December 2022

The Sika Foundation Whio Protection Programme would not be possible without the help of our sponsors and our dedicated team of volunteers. We thank you all for devoting your time and efforts towards this project, especially Cambridge ITM and Environment Waikato for their contribution to our recent trap box materials and traps.

If you would like to sign up as a volunteer and do your bit for Whio this month, please email us at volunteer@sikafoundation.co.nz