Join in mouse hunt

By Ilona Hanne

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The Rotokare Sanctuary, Taranaki's shining example of ecological restoration, is calling for the Taranaki community to help with a mouse hunt.

Since 2004 when the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust was formed, a comprehensive ecological restoration of the reserve has been under way. In 2008 when a fully pest-proof fence was completed, and a 12 species pest animal eradication was undertaken, a small slice of Taranaki went through a significant transformation, the likes of which had not been considered possible even a decade earlier.

The results were excellent, following the removal of all introduced mammals, the flora and fauna flourished within the sanctuary, leading to many significant gains for the whole region.

"While we have a very successful pest-free sanctuary, the reality is that isolated incursions of pest animals will occur from time to time," says trust chairman Steve Kane.

"But when we consider what was being routinely caught in traps prior to the fence going up, for example over 2500 rats caught between 2004 and 2006, chasing a few mice now is still a sure sign of significant success."

The trust's comprehensive trapping and monitoring operation, which is a week-in week-out activity all year round, has kept any pest animal incursions under control.

"Last year we caught a total of 15 mice," says sanctuary manager Simon Collins, "followed by 10 months of nothing. We've been on the hunt again this year, however a spike in numbers over the past month is of concern, with around 30 mice caught over the past four weeks."

In 2014 the trust reintroduced saddleback (tieke) to the sanctuary, the first time in 150 years this bird species had been seen in Taranaki. By 2016, following two successful breeding seasons, the original 60 saddlebacks brought back to the region has swelled to a thriving population of more than 260.

The trust is now calling on Taranaki to help keep this community-led sanctuary project in the best shape possible, by ensuring the war on mice is successful.

"This type of work takes people-power," says Rotokare site manager Fiona Gordon.

"We have some amazing volunteers doing a huge amount of work, however when we're faced with these additional challenges extra help from our community is vital to make sure we can do the best job possible for Taranaki.

"We receive help in these situations from the Taranaki Regional Council, Department of Conservation, and South Taranaki District Council, but this type of operation can take months, so we're asking for people to find some time to get involved.

"We need people keen to 'go-bush' for ongoing pest monitoring work and other key biodiversity monitoring, but we also need people keen to help in other ways, for example track and buildings maintenance which significantly supports the overall sanctuary project."

The vision of the Rotokare scenic Reserve Trust is to re-establish a thriving natural ecosystem at Rotokare, to benefit and inspire wider conservation efforts throughout the region and beyond, involving the entire community to return rare and endangered species to Taranaki for all to enjoy, and for the benefit of future generations.

If you'd like to help by giving a little bit of your time, or you have other ways you think you can contribute to this high achieving community-led sanctuary project, call the Rotokare team on 06 764 8500 or email contact@rotokare.org.nz.

- Stratford Press

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