TOSSI – Symposium on sanctuaries

Inspired by attending my first Sanctuaries of New Zealand conference last year in Hamilton, I jumped at the chance to head north to Whangarei for this year’s three-day event in August, along with a couple of other TOSSI committee members. The conference is an amazing immersive experience of all things sanctuary, attended by scientists, students, environmental consultants, sanctuary managers, iwi representatives, DOC and council staff.

We learned of a meta study of New Zealand eco sanctuaries, which  shows New Zealand endemic bird species benefit the most from predator control, while more recently introduced species benefit least. The study also showed that deep endemic bird species, in other words those that have been in New Zealand for the longest time, are the most vulnerable to an abundance of pests. The research further highlighted how successful diverse native ecosystems operate, and the complex inter-relationships between soil, microbes, invertebrates, insects, plants, reptiles, birds and bats that drive the success of these ecosystems.

Kiwi survival in Northland and research highlighting reduction of harm to kiwi by dogs also featured prominently. There have been initiatives, especially in the Whangarei Heads area, that have strong community buy-in. There really are kiwi in people’s backyards! Just imagine if that could extend to the rest of New Zealand.

The conference field trip to Matakohe/Limestone Island showed how a neglected island has been transformed over 30 years into a valuable crèche for newly hatched kiwi. Kiwi are taken to the island to grow for about a year until they are large enough to be able to defend themselves from most predators. They are then returned to the site where they were hatched. Community support has been critical to the success of this strategy.

Technology advances and innovation are improving in this sphere, too. A sanctuary on an offshore island has teamed up with a tech company which has designed an app that follows staff in real-time (great for keeping them safe) and flags activated traps for checking. Climate metrics and so forth are uploaded automatically. An adopt-a-trap link can inform trap sponsors what pests have been caught and when. The potential for these cutting-edge technologies is huge, especially when funds are hard to come by. Instead of rostered manual checking of a network of traps in a sanctuary, staff and volunteer time can be streamlined when the trap alerts it has been sprung. Another organisation is working on developing a website featuring initiatives happening in the environmental arena so that knowledge is shared and resources maximised.

The conference is the most amazing networking experience – rubbing shoulders with so many people who are involved, dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate about their cause, keen to share and think outside the square. If you are interested in New Zealand conservation and what is happening in this space, I highly recommend attending.

Karyn Hoksbergen, TOSSI

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