On a bright summer day at Orokonui,
I saw bellbirds and robins and kaka and tui.
Tuatara and takahe step to and fro,
Like small dinosaurs from eons ago.
If you come here at night, you can hear ruru hoot,
And you may see a kiwi (the bird, not the fruit).
These creatures and more deserve your attention,
Since they could vanish without good protection.
As you can see, I’ve been taking advantage of my new free time after handing in my master’s thesis. Earlier this week, a couple of my friends and I spent the afternoon at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, a 307-hectare protected area near Dunedin, NZ. At Orokonui, native forests are growing back after being cleared for farmland, and rare birds endemic to NZ (meaning they can only be found in NZ) are protected from predators.
As I’ve mentioned before, introduced predators are a big problem here in NZ. Before people came here, NZ’s entire population of vertebrates consisted of birds and reptiles (except for a few bats). Many birds lost the ability to fly. When the first people arrived – the Maori – they brought rats and dogs. Later, possums came over from Australia, and European settlers introduced stoats and cats. The introduced predators found easy prey with so many ground dwelling birds, and native populations were decimated. Some species, like the takahe (a large purple-blue rail), only have a few hundred individuals left. There are a mere 150 or so kakapo (a large flightless parrot) left in the world.
At Orokonui, though, these creatures are protected. The entire area is surrounded by a fence made of stainless steel mesh to keep predators out. The mesh is so small that not even baby mice can get through, and the fence extends into the ground so that rats and stoats cannot dig underneath it. It stands over two meters tall – too tall for a cat or a dog to jump over, and it has rails at the top to prevent anything from climbing up and over. The residents of Orokonui are safe.
My friends and I had a lovely walk, and I (of course) took lots of photos! Here are a few of them:
Oh, and as for the little poem at the start of this post – I wasn’t at Orokonui at night, so I didn’t get to see kiwi or ruru (a native owl). But here’s what they look like:
This is the last post of the year, folks! But there’s a lot more coming in 2018. I’ll be spending New Year’s on Stewart Island, off the bottom of the South Island. I’ll be ringing in my new year with kiwi and little blue penguins at the bottom of the world – and you guys will get to see photos from that adventure soon! Then I have tons of other posts planned, so keep an eye out for those every Friday afternoon (NZ time, at least for now).
Happy New Year from the Wild Focus Project!