Tuesday, January 10, 2012

4 January 2012: Karori Sanctuary (Zealandia), Wellington

We had our first official introduction to the predators that have decimated the native flora and fauna of New Zealand during our visit to Karori Sanctuary (or Zealandia) in Wellington.  Our friendly and knowledgeable guide, Ken, showed us mounts of predators the first settlers of New Zealand introduced intentionally (weasels to eradicate the introduced rabbits and Australian possums introduced for the fur trade) or accidentally (any introduced rat species).  In addition to the stories behind the introduction of the predators, we also learned of the measures taken to remove predators from protected areas: snap-traps, mini hydraulic-powered compression traps, and Sherman live-traps.  What was impressive about these traps was the genuine concern by the inventors for the pain experienced by the predator: all the lethal traps were designed to kill the predator immediately.  Predator trapping began in the sanctuary (2/3 the size of Central Park!) beginning in 1975 and continues to this day.  The trapping efforts have created a predator-free zone that is maintained by a 2m-high stainless steel fence, complete with a .3m-wide ‘lip’ that caps the top of the fence.  This fence has helped protect little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii), North Island saddlebacks (Philesturnus carunculatus rufusater), and Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri), all species that are only found in the Sanctuary and offshore islands.  We heard the saddlebacks calling and saw the Takahe, but did not see any kiwi (except the mounted specimen we had the opportunity to touch!).  The Sanctuary also boasts a large population of Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), Keruru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), North Island Robin (Petroica longipes) and the very rare Brown Teal (Anas chlorotis), all species we saw or heard during our visit.  The weather was bright and sunny and contributed to a great walkabout with Ken!  Dr. Moran and I were proud of our Mount students when Ken told us they asked great questions during the presentation and walk and was very excited by their enthusiasm.

Mount Saint Mary College students outside the greeting center at Karori Sanctuary (Zealandia).

Becky Seepersad (Chemistry) takes some great pictures of the endangered Takahe (only 250 remain alive!).

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