Eastern Whio Link

Eastern Whio Link

The Eastern Whio Link is a hunter led conservation project with a difference. The objective is lofty "to connect Whio populations from Te Urewera right the way up the East Coast to Te Araroa".

At the moment Whio are at a point of catastrophic decline in the region and maybe even population collapse. Early in 2019 a group of hunters and back country enthusiasts banded together to reverse the trend and bring Whio back to our local waterways through stoat trapping.

While water quality, erosion and sedimentation play significant roles in Whio decline with sediment clogging up the crevices in between the river cobbles where the invertebrates Whio feed on live, stoats play an even more devastating role.

Eastern Whio Link

A stoat will predate upon the nests of Whio and also attack them during the moult when they are dropping their feathers and can't fly. Members of the Eastern Whio Link weren't going to stand by and let that happen. In 2020 they established 250 resetting stoat traps in the Upper Waioeka catchment. These traps can reset themselves 24 times and have a four month lure which made them perfect for this application. THey would keep killing over winter while the hunters were locked out of the project area due to high river levels.

During the first breeding season the volunteers waited with baited breath. They had killed plenty of stoats but the fruits of their work would only be realised when chicks appeared on the river and survived to fledgling stage.

On the first of October, the opening weekend for trout fishing, the weather turned unusually warm and the wintery high river levels started to drop. The rivers filled with eager fishermen intent on harvesting one of the large trophy Rainbow Trout the river is known for. But it wasn't just trout that greeted them. Each of the four pair of Whio remaining in the project area had successfully nested and bobbing up and down the rapids were little balls of fluff. Whio chicks once again inhabited the Upper Waioeka and in one family there were nine chicks.

Eastern Whio Link

The Eastern Whio Link still has a long way to go with 26 kilometres under predator control and plans to extend the project to other tributaries as well as new catchments entirely, these young Whio will have plenty of space to venture out into.

"At carrying capacity a river of this size and quality could home a pair every kilometre. In year one we still have a long way to go but with the commitment of our volunteers and our sponsors we are pretty certain we can bring Whio back if this year's breeding success is anything to go by," project coordinator and NZ Landcare Trust Catchments Coordinator Sam Gibson says.

If you would like to get involved as a sponsor or volunteer to help expand the project please contact Sam Gibson 0277750016 or [email protected]

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