The Birth of a Community Conservation Project
Stoat Trapping on the Rangitikei River
We have not as yet come up with a catchy name, so at the moment the project is called “The River Valley and Pukeokahu Community Stoat Control Project”. Bit of a mouthful, so for this article we will simply call it the “The Project”.
The Project started from very humble beginnings back in 2011. However, the desire to give back in a conservation and environmental sense had long been part of our ethos.
Initially we decided we would over a period of time buy a few stoat traps on a regular basis, and starting with the area around the Lodge, we would slowly create a safe haven for native species. We were focused on bringing back native birds, but did not have any particular bird species as a target (though we did see the rare Whio on the river on occasion).
In early 2013 however, the Department of Conservation (DOC) learned what we doing and offered us 100 DOC200 traps in boxes for free. Of course the catch was that we had to lay most of them out, bait and check them each month. A cunning move on the part of DOC as they got a greater area of predator control for very little ongoing cost. I believe these traps were funded through DOCs Whio protection initiatives.
Of the original 100 traps, 30 were laid out on neighbouring properties plus at the local Primary School, to be checked by them, while the balance were either laid out on the banks along the Rangitikei River, both upstream and downstream from River Valley Lodge, or in the surrounding area to be checked by us.
This was the status quo for the first 18 months or so of “The Project”.
Several things we did do during this time was enlist the services of scientist Bob Jordon and keep the local community appraised of what we were doing. Bob Jordon collates our catch data, the GPS positions of all our traps, and displays all this information on Google Earth. You can access the file here .
During late 2014 we held a district information evening at River Valley Lodge and updated the community on what we were doing, how successful it was, and put the question to them about who else would like to be involved. DOC representatives also attended and presented.
This lead to a further 50 traps being supplied by theRuahine Whio Protection Trust. These traps extended the area being covered on the river (checked by River Valley), and also covered some fenced off native forest remnants and small waterways on neighbouring farms (checked by individual farmers).
Are We Having A Positive Impact?
I believe we are. There seem to be more birds around, and certainly more bird song. The trap network now covers 20 km of river and several hundred hectares of bush and farmland. Can we prove scientifically that we are making a major difference? The answer at present is we cannot, however we are consistently seeing more Whio.
What Have We Learned So Far?
There are some key learning points from this project.
1. Somebody has to drive a project like this and keep it on track. You do not need a legal Trust. You can just get on with it.
2. Get the local school involved
3. It is easy for someone to say they will look after traps on their property. In reality the monthly checks can easily be overlooked as the initial enthusiasm wears off. Volunteers need to realise that this is a long term project without end.
4. Records. A visual style of record keeping such as Bob Parker created for us on Google Earth, not only tracks how we are going but also does wonders for motivation.
5. There are resources available through DOC for these types of projects.
6. Trapping can only do so much. Habitat rehabilitation has to be part of a long term plan.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES TO GET INVOLVED AND HELP FIGHT FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT?
Contact the lodge today and find out about sponsorship opportunities, trap-checking scenic raft trips or become a partner in our efforts.
INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED?
Find out how you too can be a part of our Community Conservation Projects
0800 248666 / +64 6 388 1444