Posted by Duncan – Rowi Team Leader
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 4:52 pm
Westland Tai Poutini National Park’s 50th Birthday
This week DOC team at Franz have been EXTREMELY busy. We are preparing for celebrations this weekend for Westland Tai Poutini National Park’s 50th Birthday. We’ll be hosting a range of events over the weekend at Franz and Fox.
We have also been lucky enough to have 1193 schools visiting!
Shelley and Paul from the LEARNZ – Linking Education and Antarctic Research in New Zealand – have come to Franz Josef to learn about biodiversity in the Glacier region.
Shelly and Paul under a flowering dracophyllum.
Okarito Kiwi Zone is part of Westland Tai Poutini National Park – a truly unusual area for biodiversity. Rowi make up an important element within the area’s ecosystem, but they are part of something much bigger from snow-capped mountains to the Tasman Sea; with glaciers, rainforest, rivers and lagoons in between. The park is a pretty awesome area!
LEARNZ started in 1995 with a teacher taking part in the New Zealand Antarctic research program had a great idea. ‘We can’t take the students to the Ice, so let’s take the ice to them.’ By filming her adventures and having phone conferences with schools she was able to do just this.
White gentians grow in Franz Josef's harsh alpine region.
Our virtual field trip was looking at the unique biodiversity surrounding the glacier. It started on top of Alex Knob; investigating the plants and creatures that live in the harsh alpine environment. With the use of a mobile phone, we had two audio conferences with schools in which they asked us questions about our surroundings on Alex Knob. After these we headed down the hill to film some short explanations of the changes in vegetation along the way.
The next day was spent on the glacier; another two audio conferences and some filming investigating why Franz Josef Glacier is one of only three glaciers in the world that is surrounded by rainforest. The rain stayed away for the whole day – we were very lucky to get such great weather to tell the story of such a special glacier.
Franz Josef glacier.
On the final day we headed out towards the sea. This part of the field trip was looking at the biodiversity in the lower altitude area of Franz Josef including Okarito Kiwi Zone. We had another two audio conferences out at Okarito with lots of great questions from the student to keep me on my toes.
A big part of this lowland area is the Okarito Lagoon, so off we went on some kayaks to look at the fantastic birdlife in the lagoon. The weather wasn’t as nice to us on this occasion with drizzly rain. I was a bit worried the birds weren’t going to play the game, but as we came around the corner I was relieved to see Kotuku/white herons, koau/shags, torea/oystercatchers and various other wading birds enjoying the smorgasbord of food available in the lagoon.
LEARNZ is such a great concept, using technology to bring the field trips to so many students around the country. It is such a privilege to be part of the students’ learning – showing them how special our country is and what job opportunities there are out there for them. Visit www.learnz.org.nz
Posted by lizzy
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
Hello my name is Kayla Howard.
I do a gateway project with DOC for school – when you go out into a work place and learn new things, to see what’s out there. I have been working one day a week with DOC in Franz Josef for a year and a half.
Me travelling across the lake to Okarito Kiwi Zone.
I have really enjoyed work with the rowi kiwi and have even had the chance to see and feed a baby rowi kiwi – awesome!
Me holding the cute rowi chick - he took the opportunity to have a quick sleep!
I have done a chick rescue with rowi team leader, Duncan Kay, that was soooo cool (although it was hard to be quiet). I have also enjoyed doing weed work with DOC – really interesting stuff to learn about the problem weeds in NZ.
One highlight for me has to be a trip to Motuara Island because not many people get the chance to go there. I never new about the island and having a safe place where there are no threats to the rowi. Another highlight for me was taking part in the Untouched World project – what a great experience!
Me halping BNZ Operation Nest Egg Ranger, Iain Graham, check a rowi in the forest.
I am now working towards going to the DOC ranger school in Nelson, and I’m grateful that all the DOC staff are helping me with this. Everyone has been great to work with and to learn from. It’s a great experience to learn about the outdoors, see how we can all help conservation and discover what a rowi was!
Posted by Iain – BNZ Operation Nest Egg Ranger (Rowi)
Thursday, March 11th, 2010 at 5:29 pm
Over the past week Brent (from the our kea team at DOC Franz) Duncan and myself have been bringing back childhood memories, climbing trees in North and South Okarito forest.
Not just any trees, but huge female rimu in order to predict a possible mast fruiting year.
How to tell the sex of a rimu
Firstly we determine if a tree is a male or female. To do this we look through binoculars at the tips of the branches to identify any cones, fruit or turn-ups. Cones occur only on male trees and fruit and turn ups are on the female trees.
Once a female has been identified, we carefully attach ropes and send a climber up the tree to accurately count all the tips, fruit and turn ups on particular limbs.
Brent, ready to go tree-climbing.
For rimu to reproduce the males release pollen as the cones open. The pollen is carried on the wind and is received in the turn-ups of the female tree. When this occurs, the pollinated tips become a seed head and the flesh of the fruit is formed towards the end of the year.
Illustration of rimu tips.
Fruit = rats = stoats = bad news for rowi!
The data we receive can be used to predict the fruiting mast years which always result in a huge increase in rat numbers. As the fruit runs out, rats compete with kiwi for invertebrates and also eat smaller forest birds and their eggs.
The increase in rat numbers also means an increase in stoat numbers as rats are their main source of food. As rat-food runs out and stoats increase, the rat population plummets leaving thousands of hungry stoats that start looking for other food sources. This is when kiwi chicks and other forest birds are put under a huge amount of pressure.
Stopping the rat and stoat explosion in its tracks
This is by no means an exact science; there are many variables, such as extreme weather, that also must be taken into account.
Still, when we combine this with our other monitoring methods, we can improve our chances of correctly predicting predator populations and therefore intervening with predator control to stop the rat and stoat explosion in its tracks.
Posted by lizzy
Friday, March 5th, 2010 at 1:46 pm
I’m pleased to say that the reward pledged by the Okarito and Franz Josef communities has now reached an outstanding 8600 dollars. This money has been put up to catch those responsible for last month’s spate of deliberately lit fires in Okarito Kiwi Zone. It has almost entirely been pledged by local individuals and small businesses with support from DOC and Save the Kiwi.
When I spoke to Okarito resident Richard Saunders who runs Okarito Nature Tours, he was shocked by the totally irresponsible behaviour of those who lit the fires. He told me “Whether we get the culprits or not, we feel that this commitment from the local community shows our outrage and disgust that anyone would deliberately set fire, not only to a National Park, but to an area containing our rarest kiwi species !”
Thank goodness no birds were harmed in the fires. With such a small population of rowi, the loss of even one bird would be devastating.
The reward not only highlights the value locals place on this incredible part of New Zealand, it shows the generosity of its inhabitants, many of whom have suffered significantly from these fires. Okarito is an outstanding area for biodiversity and, as such, provides a vital contribution to the local economy.
The reward will be payable for any information that will lead to the conviction of the offender. Information can be passed to the Franz Josef Police on 03 756 1070.
Alternatively, information can be passed anonymously on 0800 CRIMESTOPPERS (0800 555 111).
Firefighters tackle blaze. Photo: Tony Preston.
DOC firefighter at the Okarito fires. Photo: Tony Preston.