Whio receive an early Christmas present

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7 November 2017

Northern Fiordland Whio receive an early Christmas present

The nationally vulnerable whio/blue duck population in Sinbad Gully, which encompasses one side of the iconic Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, has received much needed support in the form of a second line of stoat traps along the valley floor.  The traps have been funded by Milford Sound and Queenstown cruise operator, Southern Discoveries and will be serviced by contractors with support of Southern Discoveries staff where possible.  Southern Discoveries CEO Tim Hunter says, “the company is thrilled to be helping protect the many varied and extraordinary native species in the Sinbad Gully in an effort to secure them in their natural habitat.  Their survival is dependent on managing threats, particularly stoats, and this second trapline is specifically aimed at protecting whio, and of course the many other native bird species in the Sinbad Gully also benefit.”  This second line of traps forms part of the ongoing pest control efforts of the Sinbad Sanctuary Project, which is partnered by Fiordland Conservation Trust, principal sponsor Southern Discoveries and the Department of Conservation. The Sinbad Sanctuary Project was established in 2009 to protect the unique environment of the Sinbad Gully.

Fiordland Department of Conservation Senior Ranger (Biodiversity) Andrew ‘Max’ Smart looks after the Northern Fiordland Whio Security Site, which includes Sinbad Gully. DOC established the Sinbad Gully Security Site in 2005, which protects four to five pairs of whio along a 7km stretch of river in the project area. Smart says “This second line is great because it extends the protection for whio already in place on the right side of the river.  While we can’t protect these birds and their offspring from the multiple flood events that occur throughout the breeding season, we can certainly aim to protect them from hungry predatory stoats, the main agent of decline for whio. Good progress is being made in the Sinbad for whio with four pairs on 7km of river and four ducklings this past season; at least one of whom fledged and we anticipate there will be more. Whio pairs are strongly territorial with an average territory about 1.5 km of river, so to have a population of four pairs in this area is fantastic.”

Fiordland Conversation Trust Chair, Kim Hollows acknowledges the commitment of conservation stalwarts Southern Discoveries to the Sinbad Sanctuary project.  “All thanks to Southern Discoveries who have invested heavily in conserving this spectacular location and the native species within it.  We’ve been in partnership for nearly nine years on this amazing project; it’s been very positive, a win-win for conservation and particularly for whio.“

Staff from Southern Discoveries will shortly accompany DOC rangers when they undertake the annual walk-through whio river surveys with conservation dogs in November or December, with a second survey to be undertaken after the breeding season early next year.