Saturday, July 13, 2024

DOC hopes to lure volunteers to baiting programme

The Department of Conservation’s Maniapoto team is calling on volunteers to contribute a few hours to the protection of kōkako at Mapara.

Mapara Wildlife Management Reserve, about an hour and 40 minutes from Hamilton, is a habitat for significant population of kōkako – an iconic forest bird brought back from the brink of extinction through years of consistent conservation effort.

The call for volunteers to contribute to the Mapara baiting work comes as National Volunteer Week Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu is celebrated from 16-22 June, with the theme “Whiria te tangata – weave the people together”.

Claire Jones, a Biodiversity Ranger in Maniapoto, is leading the operation to bait hundreds of bait stations across the reserve, where introduced predators pose a threat to kōkako.

“DOC’s Maniapoto team is a small tight-knit unit – but this is a big job and we’re seeking support from the wider community to deliver this crucial conservation work,” Claire says.

Mapara is 1435ha of steep and undulating terrain at points with access via tracks and over farmland. There is a network of 2200 bait stations (50m apart) along bait lines which follow the spurs, ridges and gullies.

The first baiting round will begin with the full moon to align with the principles of mātauranga Māori.

Three rounds of baiting start in mid-August before the start of the birds’ breeding season. Baiting will continue through the season to February/March to ensure the best survival of the young chicks. The baiting work supports efforts to reduce rat numbers in the reserve, where the introduced predators are a threat to the birds.

“We want to ensure the kōkako chicks at Mapara have the best chance of survival and can go on to thrive,” Claire says. “This work also supports overall forest health in the diverse Mapara ecosystem.”

Claire says volunteers will carry a weighed amount of bait in a backpack to each bait station along lines through the block. The baiting days will be about six hours in the bush. Food and accommodation will be provided.

“A good level of fitness is needed as volunteers will be carrying backpacks over steep terrain. A basic knowledge of the bush and bush navigation would be an advantage, although training will be given. Volunteers will be in pairs and GPS used to navigate,” Claire says.

Claire says volunteers will be making an important contribution to protection of the species and also have an opportunity to work in a beautiful part of the region.

“We’re hopeful of building a community of like-minded volunteers who forge some strong relationships which benefit conservation and the taonga species we’re striving to protect.”

Anyone interested in volunteering should email for more information.

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