An extensive pest control trap network has been established in the Kaimanawa Forest Park to protect the endangered whio (blue duck).
A recent survey by the Kaimanawa Hunter Liason Group revealed a small and vulnerable whio population of just one breeding pair in each of the Kaimanawa Forest Park's Kaipo and Oamaru streams.
These two pairs are just a few of the estimated 3000 whio left in existence.
The whio is endemic to New Zealand, and its population had been steadily dwindling since the introduction of invasive pest species such as stoats, possums, and rats.
Kaimanawa Hunter Liaison Group co-ordinator Gary Harwood said the group had been working with the Department of Conservation (DOC) on a variety of volunteer projects to aid in local conservation efforts for some time, including clearing bush tracks and maintaining DOC huts in the park.
"We decided to put our hunting knowledge to use and work together to help make a pest-free sanctuary in the Kaimanawa Forest Park so our endangered whio can flourish."
The Kaimanawa Hunter Liaison Group has been granted vehicle access to a remote part of the Kaimanawa Forest Park through the private Poronui Lodge property.
The installation of 108 Goodnature A24 automatic traps occurred over a two-day layout along 10kms of the Kaipo stream.
The A24 automatic trap, developed by Wellington conservation technology company Goodnature, is the world's only predator trap which self-resets up to 24 times before it needs to be serviced by a human.
It has been proven to reduce pest populations down to near undetectable levels and keep them suppressed of rats and stoats. The network of traps will reduce the impacts of these pests on the New Zealand native birds.
Goodnature's technical expert Sam Gibson said it was a privilege to be a part of the community-led initiative.
"Providing the technology that helps bring down predator numbers, and subsequently boost endangered native bird populations is part of Goodnature's mission and it is consistently inspiring to see such commitment at the grassroots level in community initiatives like the Kaimanawa Hunter Liaison Group."
The Kaimanawa Hunter Liaison Group is made up of volunteers from multiple hunting groups, including the Central North Island Sika Foundation, Hunters and Habitats, and New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association Taupo branch.
These volunteers meet with DOC twice a year to discuss topics of mutual interest at a grass roots level.
Spotting whio, and other endangered native birds is not uncommon but the numbers have been steadily declining for decades.
Sika Foundation hunter-conservationist Cam Speedy believed we have turned the corner in whio preservation efforts.
"Stoats are the main cause of death for many whio chicks and this is stopping whio populations from being able to recover and grow in many parts of the country.
"Whio conservation efforts have been incredibly successful in other areas of the Central Plateau and we are seeing bird spillover into areas of the Kaimanawa Forest that aren't protected through predator control traps. If you can control the stoats, you can significantly improve the whio's chance of survival through the nesting period when they are at their most vulnerable," he said.