I have been volunteering at Pupu Rangi nature reserve in New Zealand for a week. It’s amazing to learn about new ecosystems and New Zealand is crazy!
On my way from Auckland to the reserve up north the impact of introduced alien species really hit me. Indian Myna birds flutter everywhere. Australian Harriers soar over the fields, fields which should have been filled with ferns and massive kauri trees, with kiwi scampering about. The birds are nothing compared to the impact from the mammals. Stoats and ferrets find kiwi easy pickings while rats and possums devour seeds and young trees.
My main tasks this week has been to set up footprint traps to monitor rats and stoats at Trounson Kaori Park in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC). Octavian, who manages Papu rangi, has been testing me on the trees and I’m getting pretty good. I love the contrasting shapes of the leaves in the forest, and imagining a dinosaur munching on the tree ferns.
We got a call from a DOC ranger tracking two kiwi chicks and we went to help. Chicks are fitted with radio transmitters and checked up on. Unfortunately these two had both been killed and stashed by stoats.
Just like with the alien species, dead kiwis is the story of New Zealand. I heard a wildlife photographer say he felt his photographs of picture perfect native species gave a false sense of security about the state of the world. I want to try and capture what New Zealand is really like.
The next day was a lot more positive. We took a break from stomping through thick forest to visit Bluff beach and then swam in Kai Iwi lake. That night we went out with a red light and watched a kiwi foraging at Trounson. We wound past towering kauri trees, the stars peeping through the canopy and glow worms matching them below.
Also… Weta selfie