Field Day at Warrenheip
As part of an ongoing education programme, a fielday was held today at Warrenheip pest-proof sanctuary near Cambridge. Invited guests were given a guided tour of the property, witnessed the release of an 18-day old kiwi chick named "Onie", and inspected progress on the Maungatautari Ecological Island Project.
Owned by David & Juliette Wallace, the Warrenheip property includes 16 hectares of regenerating native forest enclosed by pest-proof fencing. The area is free of common predators such as rats, possums, mice and stoats. Located on Fergusson Gully Road, the property overlooks the Karapiro dam and is home to a number of "Operation Nest Egg" kiwis, endangered brown teal ducks and giant weta. In addition there are many mosses, ferns and various ground covers that are not frequently seen in areas of bush that are home to pests.
Left: Staff member Jillana Robertson explains how an airlock-like system of double doors protects the enclosure as visitors enter. The system is designed to prevent both doors from opening at the same time.
Right: Specialised pest-proof fences consist of various components to repel different pests. Fine mesh prevents access from baby mice, underground mesh prevents burrowing, smooth steel prevents climbing, and the unstable upper mesh dissuades cats from entering.
|Left: Various designs of pest-proof fence are tested in monitored pens. Pests such as possums and cats are placed in the pens and videotaped as they attempt to escape. This identifies any weaknesses in the fences, as well as helping to understand pest behaviour.|
The Warrenheip project has been a labour of love for David & Juliette, beginning in 1995 with the planting of 60,000 native trees. Designing and testing the fences took a further 18 months.
Juliette has also created an education area for school groups and visitors to enjoy with pictures, models to demonstrate what they are doing.
The extensive research and practical experience gained from Warrenheip has provided a perfect testing ground for the Maungatautari Ecological Island Project (see below).
Operation Nest Egg
Operation Nest Egg is a DOC initiative to save the North Island Kiwi. Eggs are taken from kiwis in Tongariro National park and incubated and hatched at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua. At about 18 days old they are taken to Warrenheip to live until they reach 1200grams which is the weight where they are most likely to be able to fight off a stoat. 25 kiwis have come from rainbow springs to Warrenheip - this is about 1/2 of the total eggs that are hatched at rainbow springs.
Kiwi chicks born in the wild are "sitting ducks" for predators and a mere 5% survive to maturity. Operation Nest Egg has increased this to a 70% survival rate.
Below: DOC contractor Roybn Weyman releases 8-day-old "Onie" into a ready-made kiwi burrow at Warrenheip.
15 minutes drive from Warrenheip, work is well underway on the Maungatautari Ecological Island Project. So far $2 Million dollars has been raised of a total required $14 Million. This is enough to enable the construction of two fenced cells - 30 hectares on the Northern side (off Hicks Road) and 70 hectares on the Southern side (near Pukeatua).
The fence at Maungatautari is a slightly different and improved version of the one used at Warrenheip. Pictured below, the fence is 2 metres high and uses a stainless steel mesh which is very strong and weather resistant. This is capped with a colour steel sheet and small roof-like overhang and rolled edge to prevent any pests getting grip and climbing over. In addition, the terrain needs to be cleared 3 metres from the fence and all trees must be trimmed to ensure no branches fall over the fence or can be used by pests as launching pads.
It is anticipated that the Northern cell will be completed by March and the Southern cell by May 2004. Already a number of walks are being constructed for people to enjoy. It is envisaged that once the entire Mountain is fenced, the two initial cells will stay as "sub enclosures" to provide further protection to the main forest.
The Maungatautari project is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the local district. Already, the number of visitors to the mountain has increased noticeably and businesses on the fringe of the mountain are seeing increased turnover.
The project has generated a huge level of international interest in ecological and academic circles. Students and professionals from all over the world are visiting the mountain.
Both the Northern and Southern cells are also strategically located in the path of common tourist routes. Plans are afoot to provide visitor facilities which will tap into this strong market.
We will be continue to report on developments in this important project. You can also visit www.maungatrust.org for updates and more information.