Window on Waitakere: Reality shows
RBy Kay Lindley eality TV fills our screens nightly but now Ark in the Park volunteer Stuart Park decides that reality YouTube is our next big thing. Well not quite true, but Stuart in his work life deals with security issues and technology and also likes to use this knowledge for his interest in wildlife.
Volunteering initially when he came to New Zealand from the UK with the Otanewainuku Kiwi project, he arranged infrared activated cameras that took snapshots of possums visiting bait stations prior to the poisoning control measures.
At the Ark at the start of last season, volunteers and Ark committee members hiked recently along some bait lines placing bait. Untouched bags of mouldy old bait indicated the absence of rats since those baits had been laid the previous year.
Coming upon their first bait station where bait had been taken, Stuart stopped to establish his surveillance equipment. Camouflage taping over the small snaplock plastic box made the spyware almost invisible when strapped to a Nikau trunk.
The red laser beam suddenly coming from the box onto the bait station surprised everyone although it was merely the hi-tech way of aligning the lens on the target. A few adjustments and all was ready.
The volunteers figured that rats being always wary of new objects in their environment may not investigate the newly placed bag of bait for some time; nevertheless, Stuart had scheduled a check the following week anyway.
Finding that after only one night a rat was entering the station and taking baits away was salutary but showed the need for ongoing rat control efforts. Volunteers can never be sure if a partly eaten bag of bait indicates that the local rats have partaken then died or if they became bait shy or indeed if new rats had moved in more recently after the bait had lost its allure.
Here the infrared video showed a very active rat entering the station and taking out bait— its days though are numbered and hopefully its place is not taken till well after spring to give our wanted wildlife a successful breeding season.
According to NZ Forest & Bird, Pest control is probably the major priority of most conservation activity these days, and cutting edge research is being done to develop more efficient techniques.
In the 80s and 90s most of our conservation effort was going into saving both public and private forests from being destroyed by logging, but with victory in those struggles the focus has shifted to saving the forests from the threat of introduced mammals which inevitably degrade the habitat from within.
The three most destructive mammals, among some others, are possums, rats, and themustelid group (weasels, ferrets, and especially stoats). Although these animals are very destructive and have no natural place in New Zealand, they deserve the respect of a humane death.
We all wish for some biological or reproductive control, but that is some way off, if ever, and for the foreseeable future restoring habitat suitable for our native birds and creatures demands that we kill mammals as humanely as possible.
Left unchecked, possums will over time change the entire character of our native forests to a simpler and less diverse open treeland which will either not support some native species at all, or not allow other tougher species to build up to good numbers. Possums will not eat many major trees such as Kauri and Rimu, but they relish many fruit and nectar-bearing shrubs and trees that are important to our native birds such as northern Rata, Pohutukawa, Tree Fuchsia, and Kohekohe.
Possums are not entirely vegetarian as they also attack the nests of birds, eating both eggs and chicks.
For the opportunity to see the wonderful work to contain predators in the Waitakere ranges, and to go on the Walking Waitakere Wednesday Walks series, please email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org