Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Increase in bird life

Local's who travel along the Whanganui Awa have told the Department of Conservation that they have noticed a huge increase in bird life and bird song over the last 5-6 years. This is fantastic news and is anecdotal evidence for the continued improvements in the health of the ecosystem. We have demonstrated that we are getting a good knock down of rats and a great suppression of mustelids through the Kia Wharite project. The birds should be getting at least 1 season of increased breeding success and maybe 2 out of every 3 years with the current 1080 cycle.

     Tui                                                Kereru                                            Bellbird

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Protecting kiwi when setting possum traps

Possum trapping increases during winter and with the season fast approaching it is timely to remind people that possum traps can endanger kiwi if they are not used correctly. Our area has a prevalence of kiwi and we need to keep them safe.

These images below are of a local female kiwi bird that was caught in a ‘leg hold’ trap set on the ground and had to be euthanized.  She had been a very healthy specimen.

These types of injuries happen strictly when ‘leg hold’ traps are set on the ground. Most leg injuries will mean that the kiwi will have to be euthanized.

‘Leg hold’ traps are used by conservation organisations and private individuals for the ground control of possums or for the collection of possum fur. Conservation staff use simple methods that protect kiwi from the traps and strongly encourage private trappers to also follow these two simple methods:

1. Raise the trap above the ground
You can help protect kiwi in our region by raising the trap off the ground by 35cm. This will prevent kiwi from walking over a trap and being caught.  This will not impact on the efficiency of the trap as possums will still reach up and get caught in the trap. To raise the trap you can either use two nails to attach trap to a tree or use wooden boards to sit the trap on top of. In other regions where weka are present we advice raising traps to 70cm.

2. Use ONLY legal traps and check regularly
Some traps (including the commonly known ‘gin traps) are illegal following amendments to the Animal Welfare Act (1999). It is also an offence under the Act to set traps within 150 metres of any dwelling or to leave traps uninspected for more than 12 hours after sunrise on each day the trap remains set.

These traps are illegal to use
Lanes Ace (commonly known as Gin trap).                           Double-coil spring size 11\2 unpadded.

To protect kiwi from injury please ensure that you take these simple steps. For more information please contact your local Department of Conservation office.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Whio released onto Manganui o te Ao River

Last week local Whanganui and Ruapehu Department of Conservation staff released whio back into wild populations on the Manganui o te Ao River, the upper Whanganui River and Whakapapa River.

“There is always excitement when birds that have been part of the national captive breeding program are available for release. We are fortunate this time to receive eight birds locally for the Manganui o te Ao River,” says  DOC Whanganui Biodiversity Programme Manager Jim Campbell.

Whio ranger Bubs Smith checks over a whio before its release
Whio ranger Bubs Smith checks over a whio before its release
The Manganui o te Ao River and the nearby Retaruke River (both flowing into the Whanganui River) are one of eight National Security Sites set up for the protection of whio. Considerable conservation effort is being put into the management of the site. The major threat to whio is predation by pests and to manage this threat extensive trapping systems are being established in strategic and accessible places along the Manganui o te Ao and Retaruke Rivers.

The protection provided to whio by trapping predators is the result of a collaborative effort. We can’t do it alone and our successes are the result of the commitment by other parties concerned about the survival of whio.

Jim says there is great work already taking place as part of the joint Horizon’s/DOC Kia Wharite biodiversity project. This collaboration includes local farmers with land adjoining the rivers, three iwi groups, Genesis Energy and DOC staff.  More than 65 km of the Manganui o te Ao and Retaruke Rivers has now been trapped with nearly 2,000 traps protecting around 50 breeding pairs.

Genesis Energy and DOC have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this threatened native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever this partnership is implementing a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat.  The national support of Genesis Energy is enabling the Department to double the number of fully secure whio breeding sites throughout the country, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.

Whanganui and Tongariro areas have been major contributors of birds into the captive breeding program. Birds bred in the program are most likely genetically related to the local birds. “This whio release really is a home-coming!” says Jim.

The eight whio heading off into the wild
The eight whio heading off into the wild
How can you help to protect whio?
  • Keep the waterways and the river environment clean.
  • When camping or picnicking remember to take out what you bring in.
  • Observe guidelines for keeping the waterways free from didymo and other freshwater weeds – Check, Clean, Dry
  • Leave your dogs at home when visiting waterways where whio populations live or keep them on a leash.
  • Support riparian planting and waterway protection in your area.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Abandoned cat numbers increase over the holiday season

Recent finds of deserted and unwanted cats and kittens down rural Taumarunui roads has raised concern among some locals, further endorsing the importance of being responsible pet owners. The holiday season has seen an increase in abandoned cat numbers, with bags of kittens and their mothers being dropped off in rubbish sacks and left to fend for themselves in the wild.

Taumarunui local Leon Stratford lives in the Retaruke Valley and for the last 5 years has been employed as part of Kia Wharite, controlling stoats, cats and other predators and protecting local whio (blue duck) populations.

Another abandoned cat
Leon has some real concerns about the impacts cats have on wildlife populations and feels it is our responsibility as kiwis to ensure that we consider the impacts that our pets have on their surroundings. He trapped 49 cats in December alone and thinks that this number will increase if we don’t take responsibility. “It gets depressing because you do all of this great work in conservation and then you spend more time sorting out cats because of lazy pet owners”

Cats are not the only predatory species threatening native wildlife and they are managed in conjunction with rats, ferrets, stoats and a multitude of other threats. The difference with cats is that we can have an impact on the way that they are managed just by being responsible pet owners.

Tips on being a responsible pet owner
  • Having a pet is a big commitment that should be well considered before hand; think about it, do you really have to have one?
  • When you purchase a flea collar, make sure it has a bell attached, the sound might help in deterring birds when the cat is hunting.
  • Feed your pet well and keep it indoors whenever possible, a well cared for cat is likely to hunt less.
  • Be a responsible cat owner and ensure your cats are well looked after and fed while you are on holiday.