A record number of whio ducklings have been located on Mt Taranaki in what is proving to be a boom year for the rare native blue duck.
Fifty-six ducklings have been found by Department of Conservation rangers on the eight rivers that DoC surveys on the Mounga as part of the Whio Forever partnership with Genesis.
DoC biodiversity ranger Joe Carson said last Monday three more young male ducks were released into the Waipuku Stream on the eastern side of Mt Taranaki, further boosting the whio population.
"These three juvenile ducks will increase the genetic pool of our population, helping to diversify and strengthen the lines," she said.
"The release caps off a record year for breeding with 56 ducklings counted within the surveyed rivers, signalling positive movement towards a self-sustaining population of whio on Mt Taranaki."
The three new ducks were bred at the Nga Manu Nature reserve in Waikanae. They are three and a half months old and have spent the last few weeks at DoC's Turangi whio creche to "harden up" before being released into the wild.
The local whio/blue duck population on Mt Taranaki was designated "functionally extinct" in 1945 because of predation by stoats and rats. A predator control programme covering 7500ha of the park was started in 2003.
With a lot of hard work by DoC, the Central North Island Blue Duck Trust and the Genesis Energy National Whio Forever programme, the whio population has now built up to 33 pairs.
Genesis' group manager, corporate relations, Emma-Kate Greer, said it was heartwarming to see the programme returning such excellent results.
"When the partnership began in 2011, Genesis hoped to work with DoC and other community groups to secure the future of the whio — these promising results are another step towards that goal."
This work is being complemented by environmental project Taranaki Mounga which has extended the safe area for whio and kiwi on Mt Taranaki by increasing the stoat trapping network to 11,000ha in the last year.
"Taranaki Mounga is delighted to build on the great work already under way to increase the whio population on the mountain," project manager Sean Zieltjes said.
"Whio are particularly vulnerable during nesting time so it's fantastic to hear we have a record number of chicks on Mt Taranaki this breeding season."