19 Sept 17: Endangered Whio hatched at Hamilton Zoo

Hamilton Zoo has welcomed two whio (blue duck) ducklings, believed to be a male and a female, the first hatched at the zoo since October 2000.

The eggs were laid in whare rere manu, Hamilton Zoo’s free flight aviary and hatched in incubators on August 24, says Team Leader of Native and Exotic Fauna Cheridan Mathers.

The chics are pitcured at 22 days old.

“We are rapt our new breeding pair has got the recipe for success right, whereas previous pairs have not,” she says.

Conditions for whio to thrive are hard to replicate as the species rely on high-quality, stable rivers and stream catchments, preferring to nest in ground level rock crevices near steep stream banks.

“Although this hatching says great things about the environment we’ve created at Hamilton Zoo, sadly these conditions are not as easy to find in the wild as they used to be,” says Ms Mathers.

Whio are classed as endangered with a decreasing population according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It’s estimated there are only 1200 adults left, so Hamilton Zoo staff will care for the chicks until they are strong enough for release into a aviary near Turangi, before full release to the wild.

“Although visitors will unfortunately not be able to see the ducklings before they are released, this breeding success shows the work that goes on ‘behind the exhibits’ at Hamilton Zoo and zoos like us as we work hard to conserve and grow native species populations around New Zealand,” says Ms Mathers.