Thursday, January 12, 2012

6 January 2012: the Brook Sanctuary in Nelson

This morning we started our day by Skyping with the Balmville School 3rd graders.  Bryan Pujol led the discussion with the 3rd graders on basic information on New Zealand (e.g., What is the climate? What season is it in New Zealand? Have we seen any kiwi yet?!).  Our group’s interactions with the 3rd graders are designed to promote communication between the Mount and local school groups and.  In this case, our study abroad group is providing the opportunity for the 3rd graders to learn about New Zealand through our ‘on the ground’ experiences. Third grade teacher Kris Campbell-Defoe and technology teacher Carol Franklyn have been instrumental in arranging this interaction with the Balmville students.  Bryan did an awesome job chatting with the students and the students were giddy to see us while we were in New Zealand!

Our second visit to an area specifically managed for the preservation of native flora and fauna was to the Brook Sanctuary, a site overseen by a local council and headed by our guide for the day, Rick Field.  The up-and-coming Brook Sanctuary does not yet have the exclusion fencing surrounding the Karori Sanctuary, but its location within a valley surrounded on three sides by mountain ridges makes the sanctuary one the best places to situate a sanctuary (according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation).  Rick led our group in a discussion on what factors led to the demise of New Zealand’s plants and wildlife, and our group was only too happy to offer their knowledge gained from their visits to the Karori Sanctuary and the Leigh Marine Reserve.  We learned more about the trapping techniques employed to reduce non-native predatory species and even had the opportunity to see some of the species snared within the traps (Australian Possum, and unfortunately, a Weka (Gallirallus australis).  Rick highlighted the amount of time and effort needed to capture predators and the role local community groups play in assisting with sanctuary needs: weeding-out non-native plants and planting native species, removing introduced predators, maintaining ‘tracks’ (in the USA called ‘trails’), and fundraising.  It struck many in our group that the dependency on community groups, rather than government agencies, to manage sanctuaries is relatively large.  Many students asked whether we could get involved in such efforts while traveling abroad and Rick was happy to offer us an opportunity the next time we visit to get down-and-dirty to help the sanctuary accomplish its goals. Right-on!  We took a hike through one of the lush trails on the sanctuary’s property and saw many of the traps Rick spoke about earlier in our visit, and heard Tui calling, saw Keruru perching/chasing prey in the air, and caught glimpse of non-native species including the European Blackbird (Turdus merula, a relative of our American Robin), and House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).

Following our trip to the Brook Sanctuary, we drove along the coast to the seaside town of Kaiteriteri for a meal of fish and chips (fries) on the beach, and then arrived at our final destination in Marahau: the Barn.  We had a long evening preparing for our trip into Abel Tasman National Park, a three-day kayak/backpacking/camping trip that required us to carry all of our camping gear and food for the three day trip.  By 1am, the backpacks were fitted to our hikers and packed for their 11km trip to the Anchorage campground!

 Rick Field, project coordinator at the Brook Sanctuary, speaking to our group about trapping devices used to remove introduced predators.

Rick Field shares information with our group on the merits of different types of exclusion fences that will someday surround the Brook Sanctuary.

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