Moa Conservation Trust Newsletter Autumn 2016
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From the Chair 

The end of last year saw us with funds in the coffers and an eagerness to extend our trapping operations in the Orongorongos. With this in mind, the trapping team had a cracking start to 2016.

Judith Corcoran (left) and Deb Harwood know gloves are a must - but they look so much better in pink darling!
Our volunteers returned from the Christmas break energised and raring to go. We took delivery of 130 self-setting traps during the summer. These were all installed by the end of January – no mean feat when each one had to be lugged into the bush and securely screwed into position. 

The self-setting traps only require re-baiting and checking every six months as they automatically kill the possum and drop the carcass onto the ground.  The upside of this is that the traps don’t need to be cleared for each and every kill and are therefore less demanding on manpower and much more efficient. The downside is that piles of dead possums underneath the traps can get a bit pongy, which isn’t that great for people walking through the park hoping to enjoy the scenery and a breath of fresh air! To counteract this, the traps have been installed a little off the main track, and every so often some of our trappers have trekked in to throw the dead carcasses deeper into the bush.

The number of trapping volunteers is growing and, since January, there have been an average of two trapping excursions each week. This has netted an incredible number of dead possums. We do not have counters on the automatic traps, but we estimate the kills for this season as well over 300. This more than matches the number from the previous 18 months, meaning we have now chalked up more than 600 kills. 

Meanwhile, the trustees recently caught up with representatives from DOC and Rimutaka Forest Park Trust to discuss how we can work together towards making the area pest free. 

The Rimutaka Forest Park Trust have been trapping stoats and rats in the park for decades enabling them to establish a sustainable kiwi population in the area. Their team of volunteers often kindly clear our possum traps if they come across them when doing their own trap lines. In recognition of this, we have donated $1,500 towards the kiwi-aversion training for dogs that they run on a regular basis. Many volunteers and trampers like to take their dogs into the bush with them but there is always the danger that if a dog is wandering off-leash it could attack and kill a kiwi. The training takes less than 20 minutes and is apparently very effective.  Check out their website  and contact them if you are interested in their next training session.

Finally, mark Friday 29 and Saturday 30 July in your dairy if you are keen to get together with your fellow trappers for a weekend at Turere Lodge.  The aim is to focus on clearing all the Trapinator traps and carrying out any maintenance required (replacing bite-blocks etc) and re-gassing and baiting the new self-setting A12 traps.  Depending on how many people can assist on Saturday, we may use Friday to ensure that all necessary work is completed. After all that hard work, Saturday night will be spent socialising in a beautiful setting. 

The hut sleeps a maximum of 32 so let me know sooner rather than later to secure yourself a spot. 

Jamie McNaught

PS: Our extra funds have allowed us to buy comprehensive First Aid kits and personal locator beacons for the trapping team.  

Did you know?

The numbers of predators in the park are expected to swell this year when the food they thrive on – beech – will be in abundance.  DOC last fought a Battle for the Birds in 2014 and is now preparing for similar work in pest control this year.

Widespread forest seeding this autumn/winter could lead to another rapid rise in rat and stoats, putting endangered native wildlife at further risk. 

Planning for additional pest control is underway but detailed sites for this year’s Battle for our Birds programme have yet to be confirmed. DOC field staff and scientists are monitoring seed and pests levels. This information will be used to target pest control at native species populations most at risk. 

The predator plague cycle shows how the beech mast increases predator numbers and how predators turn to birds for food. (Source DOC website.)

•    Summer: When beech flowers heavily, much seed is produced.
•    Autumn: When seed is abundant, the rodent population increases rapidly.
•    Winter: Stoats feed on abundant rodents.
•    Spring: When the seed rots or germinates, plagues of rats turn to bird eggs and nestlings.
•    Summer onwards: Stoat numbers explode and they also turn to birds for food.

Around the traps

This season has seen a number of new volunteers sign up to help, and they have all been for different reasons. Here are some of them.

Gary Cooke from Johnsonville had a few projects on the go making rugs for his family home and was looking for a source of possum skins and fur. A quick Google search found Moa - it’s a perfect fit. He just needs to find fairly ‘fresh’ kills in the traps and it’s a win/win!

Brian and Jan Goodman have been tramping for many years.  They are part of the Crofton Down neighbourhood halo trapping programme and have noticed the great improvement in bird life in the area and nearby Otari which is a frequent walk/jog for them. The Cattle Ridge and Mckerrow tracks are also on their list of regular runs/jogs too; so Brian and Jan are happy to put more purpose into their exercise by clearing the traps.

“Now that we are retired we have taken the opportunity to do some four and five day tramping trips in the Tararuas. We frequently took our kids into the Orongorongos camping and feel that it is time to put something back into the hills,” they say.
We are particularly pleased to see members of the younger generation getting involved. 
Georgie Moore, Ivy McLean and Jessie Rogen were looking for a community service project to put their energies into and asked to be involved with the trapping programme. They were a bit apprehensive about the task but here’s Georgie showing us how it’s done.
Be part of the trapping team – contact our Trapping Manager Deb McNaught to find out what’s involved. 
Copyright © 2016 MOA Conservation Trust, All rights reserved.

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