February 2019

What’s been happening in the RNRP November 2018 to February 2019

It has been a busy time in the RNRP since the last update in October 2018. The trap replacement project is still underway but is now having to be carried out around other summer work programmes. Three more days of fieldwork should finally see this big project completed. We have had several wonderful volunteer rangers helping and they have really contributed to our busy workload. As well as this summer ranger Laura joined the team in November and has quickly learn the ropes of being a biodiversity ranger.

Mustelids

Through November bundles of traps were flown onto the St Arnaud Range, with 32 bundles dropped over two days. Due to poor weather during this time with low cloud on the tops there were several attempts to get this done. Three days were spent getting staff flown onto the top of the range and deploying traps along the top and then down spurs. Deploying traps down spurs is the hardest job, with very heavy loads and steep hills combined with occasionally getting wedged between trees. Once these northern areas were complete, we were able to fly some of the old trap boxes out and swap the traps out of old boxes and into new. In January the core area of the RNRP was done including the traps in behind the Borlase farm. A big thanks to Phil and Fiona Borlase who kindly let us drive through their paddocks to get traps in, this project really wouldn’t have succeeded without their support. In February the southern spurs were completed, and we are now left with just a short section along the top of the St Arnaud and the Lakeedge track.

We have also been checking our new traps on a monthly basis and the new double set traps are proving successful with several incidences of multiple kills recorded in boxes. In December four stoat were caught, with two caught in traps in the same box and another caught in the same box as a rat. In January, 27 stoats were caught with four double stoat catches and three stoat with rat catches recorded.

Possums

The possum lure trial was completed in November and result will be analysed in winter to determine if there is a difference between clips bait with possum dough and those with clay soaked in aniseed. Possum captures remain low with nine caught in November and seven in December.

Long-tailed Bat Monitoring

Automatic bat detectors were placed at Rotoiti and Rotoroa in December in the same locations as last season. Staff are currently working through the recordings produced.

Wasp Control Operation

This was carried out in January to reduce wasp numbers in the RNRP and surrounding walking tracks. A large number of FOR members were involved and it seems that the Vespex has been effective at reducing wasp numbers in the treated areas, with post-operation wasp monitoring of nests and honeydew to be carried out to determine how effective the control operation was.

Kaka Monitoring

The four kaka chicks from Krushas nest were fitted with transmitters and banded in early January. Since fledgling towards the end of January they have moved up the spur from the nest tree. On the 14th of February, Tahi and Toru were seen together in a tree, while Rua was sleeping alone about 50m away. Wha was the most active moving around in the canopy about 100m away. The fledglings seem to have worked out how their wings work and were recorded making some good flights and climbing confidently, although slowly, in the canopy. They are through the most at-risk period post fledgling where they are likely to have ended up on the ground making them vulnerable to predation. Kalms second nest of the season is still active, and in mid-February Ron Moorhouse and rangers gained access to the nest and found Kalm with four two-week-old chicks. These chicks will also be fitted with transmitters so we can monitor the dispersal of a greater number of kaka chicks.

Rodent and Mustelid Monitoring

In February rodent and mustelid monitoring was carried out in the RNRP and at Rotoroa, results from this will be available soon.

Five Minute Bird Counts

Sets of bird counts were carried out on the St Arnaud Range track, Lakehead and Mt Misery for the long-term data set. A high number of kaka were counted which coincides with the breeding season noise.

Kiwi Acoustic Monitoring

At the end of February FOR volunteers and DOC staff placed out twenty acoustic recorders to monitor great spotted kiwi along the St Arnaud Range and up the Travers valley. These will stay out for two weeks recording each night from 8.30pm for four hours, before being collected and recordings analysed for calls.

What’s coming up in March and April

The location of kaka chicks from Krushas nest will continue to be monitored and transmitters will be attached to Kalms chicks. We will continue with the trap replacement project with the traps being deployed on the southern end of the project and bundles of old traps flown out.

In March possum monitoring to determine the effectiveness of our possum trapping will be undertaken in Big Bush and the St Arnaud Range. In mid-March the recorders deployed for acoustic monitoring of great spotted kiwi will be collected and recordings analysed by the Friends of Rotoiti.

April will likely be a catch-up month of data entry and tidying up things in the field before we get back into the May monitoring period.

Outputs, Outcomes and Community Conservation - Peter Hale

As in many other developed nations community conservation groups in New Zealand work to maintain and restore biodiversity. Over the last 20 years the number of groups has increased tremendously, estimated at 4000 in 2016.

Goal 1 of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000 states: “enhance community and individual understanding about biodiversity, and inform, motivate and support widespread and coordinated community action to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity”. Is community conservation in New Zealand coordinated and do the goals reflect national goals?

To carry out their activities the majority of groups seek funding from a range of contestable central and local government funds, philanthropic trusts and other non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). Investment is considerable, in excess of $20 million. Increasingly these funds are requiring a return on their investment (normal business practice), requiring groups to demonstrate benefits or conservation outcomes that are in line with national conservation goals.

A recent publication, Shared visions:can community conservation projects' outcomes inform on their likely contributions to national biodiversity goals? indicates that most groups are failing to demonstrate this in their funding applications. Many contain no clear and identifiable outcome statement with many focused on outputs as end-points rather than outcomes. Community groups are not alone in this dilemma, DOC invested more than $8 million in 2015/2016 in community conservation partnerships but the only performance indicators reported are based on the number of partnerships, volunteer workday equivalents and “knowledge and skill-sharing initiatives”", with no mention of the differences in conservation outcomes. There is a similar picture internationally.

It has been suggested that funding providers should present requirements and advice for specifying project outcomes in applications plus provide technical and financial support for identifying what to monitor and how do do so. For conservation to be effective the monitoring of outcomes is vital. People’s experiences, local knowledge, expertise and anecdotes are valuable however we cannot rely on intuition, ideology or random trial and error. I have previously commented on the problems associated with Shifting baseline theory.

“The conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how groups can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use. More collaboration is necessary, conservation professionals, financial donors, NGO’s and academics must work together to ensure conservation actions are effective”.

I understand there are already moves afoot, both locally and nationally, to address these issues.

Julie Robilliard