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June 2021 Update

Educator’s Report

The roll out of the 160 rat traps that Whakatane Intermediate made at the centre has been great. So many rats have been caught in the traps. The students have been really into the project and have created some pretty cool trap designs.

  • The roll out of the traps at Whakatane Intermediate has been great. We are half way through and already the rats and mice that are being caught is incredible. The students are really engaged in the learning. We had an article in the Beacon in regard to the programme and I have sent a message to Jesse Mulligan on RNZ and The Project to see if they are interested in doing a story.

 

 

 

Kawerau South visited the centre for 4 days: 98 students. They opted to camp at their school and come to the centre for day visits. The weather was interesting with rain and cold but the students did really well. They made amazing weta houses, learnt about the birds and traps, worked in the food forest, walked into Karaponga falls, freed and staked the trees at the Jones, bees wax wrap making, and completed a mini adventure race. Kawerau South is a great school with excellent teacher/teacher aid and parent support. Peter Murnane or Matua Peter as he was known supported again by doing the trapping session with the students.   They would be my favourite school that I have worked with over the last 2 years.

The multisport race went ahead on the 27th of May. We had 98 students race around the centre, the paddocks across the road, Pippa’s and Chattan farm. It was a fun day out. A huge thank you has to go to the volunteer help that I received on the day.

Native tree planting has started again this year in the Jones field (the one with the barn next to the centre). By the end of the winter, we will have planted another 250 trees.

Sadly, this will be my last Education report as the Environmental Educator. I have accepted an Environmental Science position at Whakatane Intermediate. I have loved working in Manawahe and getting to know the area. I will continue to work with the Manawahe Eco trust in any way I can.

Thanks

Helen Dobbin

Development Coordinator’s Report

MET has just deployed more AT220 resetting traps in the cell tower area in an attempt to keep the pressure on the possums and rats that reinvade the forest after our baiting rounds and to target stoats and feral cats. We now have over 50 of these resetting traps in the Manawahe area as well as hundreds of the usual kill traps serviced by our wonderful volunteers.

Traps however are not a silver bullet. We recently did a trial using trail cameras to record interactions between pests and control devices. We had a bait station and two different kinds of traps mounted in close proximity to each other, all observed by a trail camera.

There were 176 video clips recorded and the pests (rats) went into the bait station and removed toxin 60 times but only interacted with the 2 traps 5 times resulting in just 2 kills. So 12 times more interactions with bait stations compared to traps. Most animals ignored the traps in favour of the bait station.

The main stay of controlling rats and possums remains toxins. Toxins achieve effective control of rats and possums with less labour requirement than trapping and the other issue is of course cost; the bait stations are around 20 times cheaper than resetting traps.

The Regional Council recently commissioned Ian Flux, a renowned Kokako expert, to prepare a vegetation report on the Manawahe forest as part of the Kokako recovery project and it makes very sobering reading.

The report points to the fragmented nature of the forest cover in Manawahe leading to increased drying out of the forest floor. It also describes that the coarse, porous nature of the soils at Manawahe predisposes them to drying; The drying effect is made worse by increased air flows and temperatures as a result of fragmentation and by the browsing of deer and wallaby, which have cleaned out the understorey – reducing leaf-litter density and allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor.

The report states that long term browsing has opened up the forest and that even low levels of browsing are sufficient to maintain the open structure and altered composition of the Manawahe forest understorey. This leads to reduced food for birds.

Flux states that, “in drier and flatter areas, most seedlings of palatable species are still being eliminated from the forest floor before they can reach a safe (>2m) size. Palatable species fare slightly better in light gaps (where they can reach safe heights in less time) and in the steeper and moister valley areas less favoured by deer. Browsers are known to change the structure and composition of New Zealand forests (Allen et al 1984).” Palatable species are selected against, and less palatable species take over

“Browsers maintain the open structure and altered composition of the Manawahe forest understorey. Over time forest canopy composition will also be affected as browsers impact selectively on the regeneration potential of canopy species. This is not something unique to Manawahe – but is happening throughout much of New Zealand where browsers are present. It is clear from my observations that, in drier and flatter areas, most seedlings of palatable species are still being eliminated from the forest floor before they can reach a safe (>2m) size. Palatable species fare slightly better in light gaps (where they can reach safe heights in less time) and in the steeper and moister valley areas less favoured by deer. Browsers are known to change the structure and composition of New Zealand forests (Allen et al 1984). Palatable species are selected against, and less palatable species favoured “

The report concludes;

“New Zealand forest ecosystems, such as Manawahe, are ill-equipped to resist browsing impacts and will require further human intervention to avoid ongoing degradation. To restore ecosystem processes and maximise the bio-diversity values of Manawahe requires a commitment to sustained near-zero browser numbers.”

It seems we can have the recovery of our forests and the associated bird life or we can have forests with browsers such as deer and wallaby but not both. We need to make some choices.

Peter Fergusson

Development Coordinator