The Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust is taking the first steps towards establishing a second sanctuary on its property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest. The $60,000 project has received a $25,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and aims to eliminate within three years most predators of native species across a 400 hectare swathe of bushland bordering the Te Hoe River in inland Hawke’s Bay.
The new sanctuary is sited on the western side of the Trust’s Maungataniwha property and will be run along the same lines as the Trust’s original 600 hectare sanctuary centred on Waiau Camp, with a similar concentration of traps and bait stations targeting predators such as rats, stoats and possums which cause such havoc with native species of flora and fauna. Bird counts and trapping figures will be used to provide a rough indication of the programme’s success.
FLR Trust Chairman Simon Hall said the organisation’s target was to reduce rats to less than five percent rat tracking and possums to an RTC (Residual Trap Catch) of less than two percent.
The Trust expects to start seeing predator numbers drop in the new sanctuary within the first year. It hopes to reach the benchmarks set by the original sanctuary within twelve months.
“It’s ambitious but the success of the original sanctuary tells us that the blood, sweat, tears and capital involved is absolutely worth it,” Mr Hall said.
“The restoration of life to an area which had been badly knocked about by predators is a joy to experience. You only have to go several meters beyond the treeline in the Waiau Camp sanctuary to hear the sounds of our native birds and to feel the ngahere mauri (forest lifeforce). It’s wonderful.”
The site of the new sanctuary was selected for the abundance of existing old logging tracks through the native forest, the rare species known to already be present there, including kiwi, whio and kaka and the forest itself. Although logged in the 1960s the area has an intact native forest canopy. The forest is a mix of podocarp, beech and tawa bush.
The decision comes as the FLR Trust posts some disappointing predator control statistics for 2014/2015 in the original Waiau Camp sanctuary. It failed to keep the rat population to less than five percent rat tracking, due primarily to a surge in population last summer as rats numbers grew to plague proportions following the extremely heavy fruiting of many native tree species.
“We expect to see a drop in bird numbers in the next series of bird counts we undertake there,” Mr Hall said. “It’s a disappointing result but it’s the only one of our many projects to have missed its targets in 2014.”