Blue ducks released in national park

08:56, Apr 27 2014

More endangered blue duck have returned to the slopes of Mt Taranaki.

Sixteen whio ducklings were released into a stream off the Waiwhakaiho River in Egmont National Park yesterday, boosting the population in the park to more than 100.

"It's a huge milestone for Taranaki," Department of Conservation whio recovery leader Andy Glaser said.

Egmont National Park is the only site in New Zealand where a whio population has been re-established more than 14 years after the original population became extinct. The last official sighting of a whio in the park before the recovery programme started was in 1948.

These birds were bred in captivity, which made them more likely to stay in the area and make it their home, Mr Glaser said.

The little ducks had plenty to contend with in the wild - from stoats and falcons to flooding separating ducklings from their parents and washing out their food sources.

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Mr Glaser said stoats were trapped by DOC in the national park and East Taranaki Environment Trust trapped on the park's border, which was crucial to the ducks' survival. "With predator control there's a high probability of survival but without control of stoats they don't have a chance."

Blue ducks love clean water so their presence in waterways is a sign of healthy rivers, Mr Glaser said.

The 2013-2014 breeding season in Egmont National Park has been the most successful ever, with 30 pairs of ducks recorded in a monitoring programme.

Labour list MP Andrew Little was happy to set a duck on its way.

"It's amazing to see," Mr Little said. "It's good to know we have people dedicated to preserving and enhancing the species, especially one that was extinct in Taranaki."

March is Whio Forever month which celebrates the nationwide project to double the number of fully breeding sites throughout the country and boost pest control.

Taranaki Daily News