The Lazarus Effect – Protect one species and resurrect a whole forest

Ann Graeme shares her personal stories of native New Zealand birds and insects that have returned after community pest control is carried out for another species. She calls it the “Lazarus effect”. It rained in the night. My pack is heavy with rat bait, and I am following East 5, a bait line marked with pink ribbon, through the forest. Up, down, up the bank. It’s steep and slippery, and I pull myself higher, clutching the tree trunks. There’s the bait station. I open i...
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February 2018 – Forest ringlet butterfly

Forest ringlet, Dodonidia helmsii, Mokihinui by Melissa Hutchison
As the song goes; ‘If you go into the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise,’ and that is just what happened recently to two volunteers checking Timms Trap lines in Aongatete forest. In a sunny glade, Barbara and Jenny saw a Forest ringlet, or Helms butterfly. It had alighted on the leaf of a grassy plant but, as they fumbled excitedly for a camera, it flitted away. The grassy plant was a sedge called Gahnia which is the food plant for the butterflies’ caterpillars. Sure enough, when th...
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December 2017 – Geology

Behind Aongatete the forest gradually rises to the high ridge called Ngatamahinerua. This massive landform is part of the range of the Kaimai volcanos which stretch south from Moehau in Coromandel. The Kaimai range is in the Coromandel Ecological District, meaning that it’s wildlife, plants and geology are all related. Made of a rock called andesite, the Kaimai volcanoes are of a similar nature to Ngauruhoe. The eruptions that created the Kaimai range divided the Bay of Plenty from the Waikat...
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November 2017 – The lone kauri at Aongatete

The long loop track at Aongatete leads gently up into the Kaimai forest. The forest changes as you climb. The lowland trees like puriri and kohekohe give way to tanekaha, totara, miro and the white-flowered tawari. If you turn west and scramble along bait line 23, you will get a surprise. You will find a lone kauri tree. It is taller than the surrounding forest and must be more than 100 years old. Aongatete is beyond the southern margin of kauri forest, which stops rather abruptly at Hot S...
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October 2017 – Fun in the Forest

The native forest is full of surprises. During the coming Conservation Week in the Aongatete forest there will be two opportunities for everyone who is curious to explore. The first activity, ‘Secrets of the forest’, will be on Sunday morning, 15th October from 10 to 12.30. This guided walk will be particularly suitable for families and children 8 to 12 years old. Every child will be given an activity booklet with quizzes and quests and we will set out to find the answers along the Short ...
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September 2017 – Flowers of the Forest

Most of the flowers in the native forest are not showy. Many are small, white and – to our eyes – boring. But flowers are not designed to please us but to attract animals to carry pollen from flower to flower to fertilise their seeds. Pollinating insects like bees and butterflies can see colours but New Zealand had few native butterflies and only small, solitary bees (the familiar honey bee is introduced.) But we have hundreds of native moths, beetles and ants, and these insects are colou...
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August 2017 – Predator-free 2050

  Can we rid New Zealand of possums, rats and stoats by 2050? ‘Yes, we can,” says Forest & Bird’s Advocacy manager, Kevin Hackwell, who will be the guest speaker at the AGM of the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust. But Kevin cautions that this is an ambitious goal and will require new techniques and a co-ordinated team effort across communities, iwi, and the public and private sectors. Caution doesn’t come naturally to this dynamo of a man who has been on the frontlin...
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June 2017 – Extinction

Extinction is like a full stop. It happens when the very last individual of a species dies. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has just reported that one in three of our native bird species are at risk of extinction. Already in the Kaimai forest birds like kakariki and kokako are locally extinct. But there are many steps along the road to the very last bird. The same report says that that four out of five bird species are ‘in trouble’. They are not gone from our forests, ...
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May 2017 – Tracking tunnels and discovering geckos

You have to be lucky to see a native gecko in the forest. The little lizards are rare because rats, cats, dogs, stoats, pigs and possums eat them. So it was a red letter day four years ago when a volunteer putting out rat bait came face to face with a gecko. It was a brown and grey forest gecko, an endemic species, which means it is native only to NZ. Then two years ago on a guided walk led by the Aongatete Trust an observant participant saw a green gecko, just as another walker trod on i...
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April 2017 – Giant moss

A giant grows at Aongatete. It’s not a tree or a fern or a flower – it’s a moss. It is the Giant moss, the tallest moss in the world. Mosses are usually short, like green carpet under the trees, but the Giant moss looks like a miniature forest of pine seedlings. Up to 50cm tall, a forest of Giant moss grows along the banks of the track near the Aongatete swimming hole. The Giant moss only grows in New Zealand and its scientific name is Dawsonia superba, Dawsonia aft...
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