Quarterly Impact Report
It’s been a tough few weeks as we’ve all been adjusting our lives. I hope that you and those close to you are all well and safe.
This is our first quarterly impact report, and we wanted to capture all the great things happening in the predator free world and celebrate the difference all of us are making together - it’s not just about saving the birds, it’s about enriching people’s lives and building stronger communities.
Like many of you, we had to cease our regular operations as the country went into level 4 lockdown. This was a huge hit for us as we are so close to making the peninsula predator free, but we are in a good place to make sure the hard fought gains we have secured are not lost.
Our field team have been working hard and were due to complete a second sweep of the urban area as we went into lockdown. About 70% of this was completed, with long life bait and lures installed, so this should be good for four weeks without spoiling. On top of this we have a suite of additional tools providing immense concentration at our identified hot spots. This is a reasonably good position for us to be in. We are also able to continue mission critical tasks like servicing the barrier system during the lockdown minimising the chance for re-invasion which is fantastic!
We are currently moving towards operationalising our Biosecurity Plan. That is about implementing a longer term plan to safeguard Miramar against reinvasion, and we have trained over 25 great community volunteer team members keen to lead this. We can’t wait to launch this initiative as soon as a de-escalation in Covid 19 threat levels allows.
One of the things that continues to blow me away with this project is the huge and ever-growing levels of support and participation to achieve this shared vision. Potentially, like many crises, this change comes with an opportunity. We put the call out for help via social media and we’ve watched the community step up - it really has been epic!!
It’s incredibly inspiring to see all the messages, as people are sharing local wildlife observations with us as well as rat sightings and letting us know what is happening with the network of traps and bait stations. The intelligence gained from the sightings on people’s isolation walks is critical, and the data is being incorporated into our planning.
It’s also hugely heartening to see the wider community’s response to our #LockDownKnockDown challenge. This time of year rats are more mobile, and the additional trapping activity means we’re flattening the ‘rat’ curve as people use their home isolation time for good.
We estimate there are around 20,000 households in Wellington trapping in their backyards and reserves. They do this voluntarily, and one backyard connects with other backyards and city green spaces to build wildlife corridors and contiguous habitats.
This is making an enormous difference!
On my sanity walk in Mt Vic this week, I couldn’t believe the amount of tui I could hear. It’s certainly the loudest I’ve ever heard before and it was easy to imagine I was on some offshore island and not smack bang in the centre of our capital city. We’re seeing flocks of pīwakawaka at home, hearing the odd call of karearea overhead, and noticing plump kererū watching us on the power lines.
Maybe its just about having the opportunity to slow down a bit and actively notice what is happening around me. I’d encourage you to do the same. The spread of our quirky and endearing native wildlife throughout the city is a pretty amazing gift for everybody’s toil and we should all definitely enjoy the rewards!
Take care everyone,
Kia mauri ora rānō te whenua, kātahi ka mauri ora anō te tangata – when the life of the land is returned, so too will return the health and wellbeing of the people.
Put simply – heal the land, heal the people.
This is how you are helping us make a tangible difference for New Zealand’s biodiversity as we work towards our goal of making Wellington the world’s first predator free capital city.
suburbs, covering 8,000 hectares
(+1 suburb this quarter)
(+1,057 traps this quarter)
(+4,230 pests caught this quarter)
We’ve teamed up with the Cacophony Project and placed some of their bird monitors around the Miramar Peninsula to measure the changes in bird life.
The bird monitors automatically record birdsong and the Cacophony team are developing algorithms to identify which birds are being recorded and how the birdsong increases over time.
Have a listen to the recordings identified by their Ruru algorithm below:
As the peninsula becomes rat and mustelid free we should get a lot more recordings like this.
Te Motu Kairangi-Miramar Ecological Restoration came across this ruru on an after work walk in Centennial/Maupuia Reserve
The images below show the distribution of kākā across Wellington, as reported by the birding community on ebird.org. Blue marks indicate sightings, and red marks indicate hotspots. Larger marks indicate a higher number of sightings.
In a recent survey conducted by Zealandia’s Dr Danielle Shanahan, a third of Wellington residents regularly spot kākā from their backyard.
Time spent involved in backyard and reserve trapping is improving the health of Wellingtonians.
Researcher Dr Danielle Shanahan from Zealandia’s Centre for People and Nature surveyed 1200 Wellington residents, and found that levels of depression, anxiety and stress are lower in people who spend more time in natural spaces.
Greater health benefits were found amongst those who take part in predator trapping. Around a third of those who were surveyed were involved in predator trapping at home or in the community, and it was associated with lower levels of depression, stress and greater feelings of social cohesion.
It’s tempting to assume the results are linked to healthier people being the ones taking part in trapping, but the research shows there’s more to it than that:
“Interestingly, participation in predator trapping (a common mode of environmental volunteering in the city) provided further predictive power for mental, physical and social health and wellbeing outcomes. This pattern suggests that significant additional wellbeing benefits are gained when people experience active stewardship of their environment alongside other nature-based activities; indeed, participation in trapping was a significant predictor of higher levels of social cohesion whereas general time in nature was not in this study. These additional benefits could be derived from the added interpersonal connections people gain when participating in a community activity, or these experiences may also encourage more considered observation of the natural environment, potentially leading to greater benefits.”
The connection between people, nature and wellbeing in Wellington is part one of a longer-term study which will continue to measure change in experiences of nature and wellbeing over time, and is supported by Wellington City Council.
Ultimately, these results suggest that nature is playing a key role in improving the health and wellbeing of Wellingtonians.
The full research report can be found here.
The drawing below was inspired by Toby Morris’ illustration showing how easily COVID-19 can spread if people don’t stay home.
Just as viruses can spread, so too can connections build. Each dot here represents a backyard trapper, and the lines are what policy makers call ‘social cohesion’ - the glue that holds society together. It’s essential in times of crisis, it means we know our neighbours, we know who might be vulnerable, and we can ask for help.
The success of our Miramar Peninsula eradication project relies on Wellingtonians stepping up to get involved. Having the city on board is not a nicety, it is essential. We’ll give you an example:
Meet Daryl – a Strathmore resident on the Miramar Peninsula. It’s safe to say he’s had some pretty huge challenges to overcome in his life. He first got involved with the volunteer trapping group Predator Free Miramar because rats in the ceiling were keeping him awake. He got a trap and caught 21 rats in two weeks! His energy and commitment spread throughout Strathmore where he started rolling out traps to his neighbours and suburb - and he’s now caught several hundred rats.
Daryl approached us about getting involved in the Miramar Peninsula eradication project and has been volunteering with us once a week for around 10 months.
Daryl has become an essential part of our community volunteer team. Whilst we had 99% support for the project from residents not everyone wanted us in their backyard. This is where Daryl came into the picture – his skills in being able to connect with his community, having built relationships over years, has been huge for us.
His trap checking skills are also impressive - he can check 50 traps in the time it might take an average person to check 20-30 traps!
Daryl has struggled to find employment but our hope is that this training will set him up for a new career in conservation.
Daryl is one of many thousands of Wellingtonians stepping up to do their bit – motivations may be different but the goal is the same. We are seeing hugely diverse groups of people contributing in all sorts of quirky and interesting ways – and that is epic!
The short film below tells the story of Daryl and his family, If you haven’t seen this documentary then please do.
The short film Rat Man (co-directed and co-produced by Steph Miller and Belle Gwilliam) tells the story of Daryl - a reclusive ex-convict, who turns local hero when his house and local community are overrun by rats.
- Miramarvellous Festival - Collaboration with Double Vision and Miramar BID network to celebrate all things marvellous about Miramar
- Our predator free efforts are famous in Texas!
- Karearea spotted hanging out in people’s backyards
- Critically endagered shore plover spotted between Breaker Bay and Seatoun
- Instagram takeover by Holly Neil
- Kowhai and his DOC dog handler Richard scour the coastline looking for any signs of mustelids (weasels/stoats) on the Peninsula
- Our foundation partner NEXT Foundation showcase Predator Free Wellington in their latest edition of the NEXT Outlook series
- Malaysia took a break from the COVID-19 news, and read about the joys of rat trapping instead
- NZ Herald - Coronavirus - Wellington Predator Free silver lining
- #LockDownKnockDown campaign begins - calling for backyard trappers to step up their trapping efforts and help us flatten the ‘rat’ curve
- Stuff - Predator Free groups call for backyard trappers to step up during lockdown
And this is what Predator Free Miramar trappers are sharing on facebook:
“Just had Karearea sitting on our power poles in strathmore park. Second time in two days.”
“Sound of a Ruru in Townsend road, 2nd night in a row. Very cool.”
“A big Keruru again today Cnr Totara and Camperdown”
“I can hear a Morepork in my backyard right now, which is Carter Reserve. First time I have ever heard one in the suburbs in my life!!! A real celebration.”
“I saw a Kotare with a skink in its beak on the Maupui track this afternoon, then it’s vibrant colours when it flew.”
“We’ve lived on Rotherham Terrace for 20 years and never seen a NZ Falcon in our street before!”
Thank you to Griff Hunt for letting us use his incredible photos.
Griff lives in Strathmore Park, and started backyard trapping for Predator Free Miramar two years ago. What started out as a few traps in his garden has now grown into a trapline network covering about two hectares of his garden and the eastern walkway reserve. As a landscaper, he spends a lot of time outdoors and has seen firsthand the increase in bird life and birdsong in suburbs with community trapping . He also loves tramping and taking photos of wildlife (which is of course relatively limited to birds in New Zealand) and has noticed a real increase in native birds such as karearea and ruru appearing both in our backyard and out in the Tararuas.
Thank you to Wellington Community Trust for funding our barrier infrastructure.
Thank you to Fix and Fogg for the hundreds of litres of peanut butter.