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Call for volunteers for Mapara decoy work

Mapara Wildlife Management Reserve, about an hour and 40 minutes from Hamilton, is home to a significant population of kōkako – an iconic forest bird that has been brought back from the brink of extinction through years of consistent conservation efforts.

The call for volunteers to contribute to the Mapara decoy work comes as National Volunteer Week Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu is celebrated from June 16 to 22, with the theme “Whiria te tangata – weave the people together”.

Claire Jones, a Biodiversity Ranger in Maniapoto, is leading the operation to lure hundreds of bait stations into the reserve, where introduced predators pose a threat to kōkako.

“DOC’s Maniapoto team is a small, close-knit unit, but this is a big job and we are looking for support from the wider community to deliver this vital conservation work,” says Claire.

Mapara is 1435 hectares of steep and undulating terrain at points accessed by paths and over farmland. There is a network of 2200 bait stations (50 meters apart) along bait lines that follow the tracks, ridges and gullies.

The first round of feeding starts with a full moon to align with the principles of mātauranga Māori.

Three feeding rounds start in mid-August, before the birds’ breeding season begins. Feeding will continue throughout the season until February/March to ensure the best survival of the young chicks. The baiting work will support efforts to reduce the number of rats in the reserve, where the introduced predators pose a threat to the birds.

“We want to ensure that the kōkako chicks in Mapara have the best chance of survival and can continue to thrive,” says Claire. “This work also supports overall forest health in the diverse Mapara ecosystem.”

Claire says volunteers will carry a weighed amount of bait in a backpack along lines around the block to each bait station. The feeding days will last approximately six hours in the bush. Food and shelter are provided.

“A good level of fitness is required as volunteers will carry backpacks over steep terrain. A basic understanding of bush and bush navigation would be an advantage, although training will be provided. Volunteers will work in pairs and use GPS to navigate.” says Claire.

Claire says volunteers will make a significant contribution to protecting the species and will also have the opportunity to work in a beautiful part of the region.

“We hope to build a community of like-minded volunteers who will forge some strong relationships that will benefit conservation and the taonga species we work to protect.”

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