Volunteers working to protect kiwi along the Kawatiri Coastal Trail

21 May 2024
Development West Coast
Last week volunteers for the Tōtara Ōkari Kiwi Enhancement Project (TOKEN) were out on the Kawatiri Coastal trail (KCT), checking predator control traps.

The volunteer group, consisting of Peter Coburn, Trudy Harrington, Mika Verheul, and Hans Wiskerke, and Stu Henley, has been working enthusiastically to protect the Great Spotted Kiwi/Roroa in the Ōkari-Tōtara region.

Trudy Harrington said the project began earlier this year to formalise the protection of this relatively unique Kiwi population, which inhabits an isolated area close to the coastline. As part of the access agreement with the Department of Conservation (DOC), KCT is required to install pest control measures along the trail. This includes laying DOC 200 traps every 100 meters on DOC land.

“Prior to this, pest control was restricted to a trapping-line maintained by one local woman, and possum control initiatives conducted as part of a wider TB control programme,” Trudy explained.

Peter Coburn said the initial monitoring by trail cameras showed that there were a lot of rats in this area. Initially they set up one A24 trap, which had a high catch of 17 in the first couple of months.

“We monitored the trap with a camera and were fortunate to also capture footage of Kiwi passing near the trap on numerous occasions. It has always been known by locals that they were there, but this video evidence really motivated a small group of us to try and improve the overall habitat for the native species that live here, ” Peter added.

Trapping is carried out by a small group of volunteers, with the more formal group, TOKEN, being established to provide a more strategic, overall focus to predator control activities in the area. With financial assistance from a legacy, TOKEN has since installed an additional 20 A24 traps, 10 “Trapinator” traps, and seven DOC 200 traps through the Logging Road as an additional defence against predators.

“There are currently several dedicated volunteers who check the traps on a weekly basis, alongside assistance from local landowners, the Brownlee family,” Trudy added. “We intend to extend this trapping area to encompass other landowners and create a larger defence of this area.”

Zak Shaw, Development West Coast nature economy project lead, said the level of passion and dedication of the team involved in the protection of taonga species living alongside the Kawatiri Coastal Trail is very impressive.

“Their work increases public awareness that species such as Roroa, classified as threatened-nationally vulnerable, live within close proximity of the Westport community.

“A sustained effort to protect the unique wildlife in the district will support the enhancement of the Buller visitor experience and the lives of those who live in the region permanently.”

Those interested in volunteering can contact Trudy via the Kawatiri Coastal Trail website, or email at admin@kawatiricoastaltrail.co.nz . The group welcomes support to help their vision of a flourishing ecosystem in the Ōkari-Tōtara reserves become a reality.

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