A research race against rat recovery

If there are less possums in our forests, does that mean there will be more rats? Many won’t be thinking about a question like this, but for third year University of Auckland PHD student Tess O’Malley (pictured), it is a topic she has been studying for over a year. In February 2019, Tess set up two 2.5 hectare research sites on Egmont National Park to understand the speed of recovery bounce back of rat populations after an aerial 1080 operation. One site is on the Kaitake Range, which has a very low possum…continue reading →

Taranaki research aims to understand possum behaviour

Tess O'Malley holds a possum with a GPS collar which tracks its movements. At night when we are sleeping, possums and other nocturnal animals are on the move. For the last 10 months, University of Auckland PHD student Tess O’Malley has been studying the behaviour of possums living in low population densities on and around the Kaitake Range and Pukeiti. Her work in Egmont National Park is a long way from Dunedin where her family live, and even further from Connecticut in the USA where Tess grew up.   Her research is already…continue reading →

Sera Gibson joins Taranaki Mounga

Sera Gibson Taranaki Mounga is excited to welcome Sera Gibson to the team as Project Manager until July 2020. She joins as cover for Sean Zieltjes who is on paternity leave. Taranaki Mounga Chairman Jamie Tuuta says Sera brings a wealth of experience having previously worked for the Department of Conservation and more recently Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa. “Her broad understanding of the regional ecosystem, deep relationships and technical expertise is a welcome addition to the team,” says Jamie. Born in Taranaki and of Te Atiawa, Ngāruahine and Te Arawa descent, Sera…continue reading →

A successful toutouwai breeding season

By Georgina Tubby, Taranaki Mounga DOC Ranger This touwouwai Black, Blue, pale Blue and Metal hasn't been seen since his release in May 2018! PHOTO: Tony Green During late spring 2019 and early summer 2020 our Rangers, along with some dedicated volunteers, were busy on the mounga monitoring our awesome translocated population of toutouwai.  This breeding season marks our most successful yet with 19 pairs observed and at least 14 pairs having bred. Pair numbers have doubled since last season. Since their release in April 2017 and again in May 2018, our toutouwai have been gradually establishing a population…continue reading →

Taranaki pests beware, Tama’s been on the tools

Mt Taranaki’s pests be warned – Tama Blackburn has been busy. Taranaki Mounga DOC Ranger Tama Blackburn Mr Blackburn is a Department of Conservation (DOC) Ranger in Taranaki, and like all of DOC’s staff, he’s currently working from home during the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown. Although he’s normally out on the mountain, he’s turned his hands to constructing more than 110 traps to target stoats and ferrets living there. In the days before the lockdown, Mr Blackburn collaborated with Taranaki Mounga Project Manager Sean Zieltjes and DOC Supervisor Jared Coombes to stockpile timber and…continue reading →

Low-key welcome for new whio

DOC Biodiversity Ranger Ellen Squire releases the three juvenile whio into the Kapuni Stream. Three juvenile whio were quietly released onto the Kapuni Stream last week (Tuesday 24 March) after an event to be attended by representatives from Te Korowai o Ngāruahine, START Taranaki and those who helped to care and transport the whio, was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. The release was the first into a south Taranaki river on Egmont National Park. The two male and one female whio were bred at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae and then taken…continue reading →

Highest ever number of whio ducklings on Mt Taranaki

A record number of whio ducklings have been located on Mt Taranaki in what is the best year for our rare native blue duck. Eight-seven (87) ducklings have been found by Department of Conservation (DOC) Rangers on eight regularly surveyed rivers. This is an increase of 71 percent from the 51 ducklings located during the 2018-2019 breeding season. The annual whio monitoring work on Mt Taranaki is part of the DOC Whio Forever partnership with Genesis Energy. Reducing predator numbers is a major factor in the large increase of whio. In the last…continue reading →

Shaping a new horizon for local students

Making a DOC 200 stoat trap is not easy. Just ask students from Coastal Taranaki Area School, Manukorihi and Devon intermediate schools. Students from Manukorihi Intermediate and Coastal Taranaki Area School who participate in the New Horizons Aotearoa program. Since 2018, when New Horizons Aotearoa joined Taranaki Mounga, about 60 Year 7 and 8 students have done what many people cannot when they mastered trap building. This after-school mentoring programme uses building as a platform to lift students’ confidence while opening their eyes to Taranaki’s natural environment. Students are selected by their schools…continue reading →

Mixing business and biodiversity

BTW Company Director Grant Aitken (far left) with some of his volunteering team. PHOTO: Vicki Zieltjes Over the last 12 months a number of Taranaki-based businesses have supported biodiversity efforts on the Mounga. One such business is BTW Company (BTW) which has provided opportunities for its staff to check and maintain 53 traps along a five-kilometre loop near the Mangaoraka carpark by the North Egmont Visitor Centre. BTW Director Grant Aitken says as with many other community projects the company supports, the staff enjoy being actively involved. “We’re proud to be a company…continue reading →

Unique role created through partnership

Kaitiaki Whenua Ranger Wayne Capper. PHOTO: Vicki Zieltjes Kaitiaki Whenua Ranger Wayne Capper (Taranaki Iwi, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Ruahine) is loving everything about his role, created as a partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Te Kāhui o Taranaki Trust. Wayne is working alongside the DOC Visitor Assets team as he manages the upkeep of 29 cultural sites returned to the iwi as part of its 2015 Treaty of Waitangi settlement. These properties lie within the rohe of Taranaki Iwi between Oeo in South Taranaki and New Plymouth’s Ngā Motu/Sugar…continue reading →

Reciprocating with Rotokare

If you have been to Rotokare Scenic Reserve at dawn or dusk, you would have heard the symphony of bird song. This 230-hectare predator-free environment is protected by an 8.2 kilometre pest-proof fence and native flora, lizards and invertebrates are thriving. Native birds like hihi, kiwi, kārearea, kererū, toutouwai, tieke and pāteke abound. Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust Conservation Manager Fiona Gordon. PHOTO: Vicki Zieltjes Earlier this year a native bird species was returned when 60 titipounamu were translocated from the Mounga to Rotokare as part of the restoration of the Rotokare reserve. Monitoring…continue reading →

Predators are no match for Coastal Taranaki School students

Restoring the flora, fauna and birdlife along the Hangatahua Awa, also known as Stoney River, is important to students from Coast Taranaki School. Principal Scott Walden, left, and students from Coastal Taranaki School. To support this restoration, Year 9 – 13 students from the school are now managing 18 DOC200 stoat traps which cover two kilometres along Blue Rata Reserve in Okato. Many of the students who will check the traps, also built them, thanks to their participation in the mentoring programme New Horizons Aotearoa. Coastal Taranaki School principal Scott Walden says the…continue reading →

A bright future for local biodiversity

Professor Bruce Clarkson. Last week we listened to Professor Bruce Clarkson (pictured) talk about the positive change in biodiversity on Egmont National Park. Professor Clarkson knows the Park extremely well. He was raised in Midhirst and a lot of his early research focused on the Mounga. He is now University of Waikato's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and recognised as one of New Zealand's foremost authorities on ecological restoration. He shared fascinating facts and images showing the physical landscape changes from when the Park was ravaged by possums and goats in the 1960s, to its…continue reading →

Extremely low goat numbers in Egmont National Park

In July state-of-the-art thermal camera aerial technology was trialed as part of the search for the final remaining goats in the subalpine area of Egmont National Park. The good news was that the experienced thermal team did not detect any goats or see any sign of goats during the 30 hours of operational flying time. Hunting and local expertise was provided by staff from the Department of Conservation’s Te Anau and Taranaki offices, and a team from Te Anau Helicopters conducted the aerial operation and thermal detection work. The result from the trial indicates the…continue reading →

No detectable traces of 1080 in Kaitake Range water samples

On Thursday 31 October 2019 the final aerial 1080 operation was completed on the Kaitake Range. This was the second application over the 3000 hectare area which aims to completely remove possums from the range as well as reducing overall predator numbers to less than five percent. A total of 13 water samples were taken during both operations on both public and private water supplies within 24 hours of each application on the Kaitake Range. Of the 13 samples taken on six seperate sites after both operations, NO detectable traces of 1080 were…continue reading →

Predator control a success

Press release from Department of Conservation Native birds on Mount Taranaki have a greater chance of breeding success this season with high rat and possum numbers knocked down from the predator control operation in June. Taranaki Mounga Project undertook aerial 1080 predator control over 31,000 ha in Egmont National Park to reduce predator numbers and give threatened species such as whio and kiwi a chance to successfully breed and raise their young. This operation is part of a much larger multi-tool approach to predator control, which will one day allow the return of…continue reading →

No detectable traces of 1080 in Mt Taranaki and Pouakai Range water samples

Twenty-four water samples were taken on both public and private water supplies within 12 and 24 hours of the aerial 1080 predator control operation on Mt Taranaki and Pouakai Range. This operation was completed the last week of June. Of the 24 sampled sites NO detectable traces of 1080 were found. Laboratory analysis can detect 1080 in water at concentrations as low as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb) and the maximum amount of 1080 residue allowed in drinking water by the Ministry of Health’s is 2.0 ppb. This has never been breached. This testing was conducted…continue reading →

Making a difference in our own backyard

Over the last two years Year 10 students from Francis Douglas Memorial College have adopted a large part of Centennial Park in New Plymouth as part of the school’s stewardship programme. Led by teacher Tina Dalliston, 150 students have helped to make, set and regularly monitor 100 T-Rex traps along the coastline. “This ongoing work helps us to remind students that we all have an impact on others and our environment and we need to be conscious of how we manage that,” says Tina. DOC Biodiversity Co-ordinator Tim Sjoberg is grateful for Tina’s…continue reading →

Picture perfect

Every project has its characters and ours is Tony Green. His energy and passion for the environment are equalled by his amazing photography skills. He has taken some of the project’s most captivating images. His images, especially of whio, toutouwai and project volunteers, have featured not only in Taranaki Mounga publications and social media, but also in those of the Department of Conservation, NEXT Foundation and many local and international conservation groups. As well as taking impressive images, Tony has been volunteering for the project for more than two years, the first time…continue reading →

Monitoring gives good information on predator numbers

Pre and post predator control monitoring Taranaki Mounga and Department of Conservation have completed a number of monitoring projects in the lead up to the 1080 operation. Since mid-2018 320 separate rat tracking tunnel cards, 160 stoat tracking tunnel cards and a further 320 waxtags for monitoring possums have been set up across the Park. There has been intensive monitoring on three separate occasions since August 2018. We have accumulated 960 rat tracking nights, 6720 wax tag nights and 3360 stoat tracking card nights. Results indicated high predator numbers are evenly distributed throughout the Mounga. This has resulted in our team and volunteers setting up additional trapping…continue reading →