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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Pests of Aongatete Forest – video

These are the enemy of native biodiversity. This film was compiled in 2014 (no sound). We use game cameras to understand the behaviors of these species, in our mission to control them. Thanks to Barry and Pam Pethybridge for filming and editing these clips. https://youtu.be/OB5eUsfExKw The next video is a slideshow of still photographs compiled between January 2010 and June 2013. https://youtu.be/pN1y3KA4d3I
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August 2016 – Stoat busters

The nesting birds in the Aongatete forest are easy prey for stoats. But trapping stoats is difficult because they are smart animals, so we need to be smart too. That is why we are trying out a new plan involving two kill traps in a double-ended box. Barry enlisted the help of the Katikati Men’s Shed to build eight boxes. It involved cutting out the wood and assembling the boxes according to a design from the Department of Conservation. Ron Boggis from the Men’s Shed said the men enjoyed h...
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June 2016 – A major offensive in the pest war

Say ‘cyanide’ and people rear back in horror. It is a lethal killer. One lick, whether you are a possum or a person, and you are dead. So cyanide use is strictly regulated and can only be used by qualified operators. But because it is so toxic, cyanide is also a very fast and humane killer. Some wily pests have learned to avoid the less toxic bait which volunteers can handle so cyanide is another tool to kill the possums, stoats, and rats that are killing our forest and its wildlife. Thank...
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May 2016 – Rare fern discovered

The king fern is a magnificent plant. Its glossy fronds grow up to three metres long and a metre wide. It looks rather like a big tree fern without a trunk. The king fern belongs to a tropical family and only grows in lowland forest from Kaitaia to the Bay of Plenty. Once it was very common and its large, starchy root was an important food for Maori in pre-European times. But now it has been decimated by pigs, which dig up and eat the roots, and by deer and goats which browse the fronds. Kin...
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April 2016 – Stoats at large

It has been a strange summer. The threatened drought did not happen and instead regular rainfall made the garden and the forest grow and be fruitful. Trees have been laden, which is great for home gardeners and the native birds and insects, but also great for their predators, the rats, stoats and ferrets. Reports of stoats seen running across the road – and sometimes squashed on the road – indicate that their numbers are rising and this will be bad for the birds, particularly those like our newl...
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March 2016 – Return of the rifleman

‘Bring back the birds’ is the slogan of the Aongatete Forest Project. In previous years the eggs and chicks of birds like fantails, robins and kereru were eaten by rats, stoats, feral cats and possums. Now that pest control is reducing the number of these predators, the birds are getting a chance to breed. We are helping to ‘bring back the birds’! An extra bonus which was not expected is the appearance of a new species – the rifleman or titipounamu. Of course riflemen must have always bee...
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February 2016 – Killing for Survival

In New Zealand conservation is all about killing. It’s tragic but it’s true. The animals we kill we call ‘pests’. Before people came, bats were the only mammals that had made their own way to these islands. New Zealand was a land of birds, lizards and invertebrates including giant weta and metre-long earthworms which were eaten by enormous worm-eating snails. All other warm-blooded furry animals in native forests are foreigners – rats, stoats, ferrets, feral cats, hedgehogs, deer, goats and p...
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