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one find of moa poo

Stout legged moa
found in a cave in Nelson is thought to be 8000 years old.

In Flight of Pollen, fresh native pollen is carried from plant-to-plant. But in new research, it’s evidence of which plants were eaten, way back thousands of years ago!

Scientists analysed the pollen in fossilised moa poo and in fresh deer poo, from Daley’s Flat, Dart River Valley, West Otago.

It’s thought four species of moa lived where the samples were found, three of which can be found in Cloak of Protection: the bush moa; the heavy-footed moa – described as a “40-gallon drum walking on toddler’s gumboots”; the upland moa; and the South Island giant moa.

The pollen, thousands of years old, and still remaining in the dried poo, indicates that each of these species grazed on different plant types within the area.

The pollen also shows that plants that were present when moa roamed the country are now pretty much absent – due to the introduction of deer.

Deer are not like moa. Research by Jamie Wood and Janet Wilmshurst, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

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Culling invasive species on islands worldwide

could save nearly 10% of the world’s bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile species currently on the brink of extinction.

So the Guardian reported on research published in the journal Plos One.

Recently I saw this for myself on Kapiti Island, which – thanks to volunteers who criss-crossed the island with traps, and to the ongoing surveillance of DOC – has been predator-free since 1998. Only one pregnant ferret has disturbed the peace since then!

Kākā watched us from trees above, kōkako sang, weka dug in the undergrowth, the lone takahē hid from sight, hihi flitted by, and we found empty kiwi holes…

“This is about as cost-effective, high-impact species extinction prevention spending as one can find – as close as we can get to a silver bullet. . .People are often surprised at just how successful and doable these projects are . ..” said Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK overseas territories.

With the predators in Cloak of Protection removed, wildlife is flourishing. To celebrate this, dolphins frolicked in the marine reserve, and beside our boat, both ways.

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Rivers as barriers

RATS in Cloak of Protection
even quite small rivers are an effective barrier to possum migration. So found ZIP (Zero Invasive Predators), in 2017, when they ran a trial in Remutaka Forest Park.

Last year, a similar trial began in the Perth River valley, to measure whether or not larger rivers are also an effective barrier to the migration of rats.

By 19 February 2019, after more than seven months of continuous bio-marking and trapping, confidence has grown. Trials were run across winter (where the river levels are lowest; the water is at its coldest; and rat breeding and dispersal activity is low), and across spring/summer (when the river levels rise as snow and ice melts; and rat breeding and movement increases).

“We are very encouraged by this promising result!” say the team.

Maybe, just maybe, some rats don’t like getting their feet wet!?

More information at Zero Invasive Predators Assessing the Perth River (and Scone Creek) as a barrier to rats

In Cloak of Protection, there are three rats: kiore; Norway; and Ship (shown).

Making Flight of Pollen we learnt that the endangered sort-tailed bat / pekapeka (which is a phenomenal pollinator), has had much of its role in our Native bush, taken over by the Ship rat – when the rat doesn’t eat everything in sight ie the whole flower (of course)!

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the kākāpō breeding season

this summer is expected to be the biggest we’ve ever known.

That’s because we’re having the biggest rimu mast that’s ever been recorded.

Rimu mast (seed fruiting in large amounts) is the trigger for the female kākāpō on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou (about three kilometres north-west of Stewart Island/Rakiura), and on Anchor Island/Puke Nui (in Fiordland’s Dusky Sound) to come, answer the boys booming. Finally joining them to dance in their sounding bowls!

These Islands are home to New Zealand’s main populations of kākāpō. The third Island is Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf.

There are 148 kākāpō and the population is slowly increasing. But the likeable parrots face lots of problems. The biggest is infertility.

Kākāpō and takahē expert Andrew Digby, a DOC scientist says that, “Only about half of the eggs hatch, and only about a third of the eggs that are laid turn into chicks that fledge.”

Last year, for example, there were 122 eggs laid but only 34 chicks fledged.

That makes mast years like next year of huge importance. Digby says, “It’s going to be a big one for us.”

One that will bring out the girls!

Thanks to the undaunting efforts of the Department of Conservation, in Cloak of Protection, Kākāpō remain in the FOREST realm, and have not joined the EXTINCT realm.

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First takahē eggs for Kahurangi

Takahe eggs
Image: DOC
The pitter patter of little takahē feet is on the cards at Kahurangi National Park. DOC reports that the first eggs of the new wild population have been found at Gouland Downs off the Heaphy Track, only the second wild site for takahē.

Today it is exactly 70 years since takahē were rediscovered in the Murchison mountains of Fiordland.

As a student, one of my holiday jobs was working at the Murrell Accomodation in Manapouri. Old man Murrell told me that he had been one of the group that lead Orbell up into the mountains on that day.

He also laughed and claimed that they knew of the existence of the birds long before this. I wonder?

Never-the-less, we mark today as the 70th year of their rediscovery.

Takahē in Cloak of Protection belong in Tane’s Forest Realm. The work of The Takahē Recovery Programme means that they did not join Hine Nui Te Po in the realm of the extinct.

Seventy years on they remain with us, and are now laying eggs in the wild in two locations.

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World-leading eradication on Antipodes Island

Image: WWF-New Zealand and Island Conservation

Million Dollar Mouse was one of the most complex island eradication projects ever undertaken, and now we know it was successful.

Recent monitoring on Antipodes Island has confirmed that native birds and insects can thrive, free from predation and competition from mice and other mammals.

A successful Cloak of Protection is now made – by a team that included DOC, the Morgan Foundation, WWF-New Zealand, Island Conservation and us, the New Zealand public.

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at the NZAEE conference

Me as weather-controller in Flight of Pollen
Anneke picking up and dropping of Pollen
Predators have ravaged Ben’s Cloak (right)

Cloak building at Zealandia

in April, environmental educators gathered in Wellington for the annual NZAEE conference. On the Thursday evening, while some went off on a night-tour of Zealandia (and saw kiwi) we played games! Kakariki Games.

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Meet the Providers

February was Meet-the-Providers month. Enviroschools in the Greater Wellington region invited teachers to meet with local providers of environmental resources.
Because Cloak of Protection has had huge support from Wellington Enviroschools, I attended events in the Kapiti Coast, in the Hutt Valley, and in the Wairarapa.
Many teachers were very complimentary about Cloak of Protection, and were keen to have a look at Flight of Pollen, and to learn our plans for teaching it.
Here is a table of Kakariki Game goodies, laid out in Featherston.

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playing Cloak in a Tararua tramping hut

playing in a Tararua club tramping hut
playing in a Tararua club tramping hut
Thought I’d share this lovely comment I received in October. Perfect place to play the game!!

Just thought you might like to know how much our family love your card game. It was a real highlight taking it in our pack on our tramp on the weekend. We stayed overnight at a tramping hut with another family and introduced them to the game. With a 7,8,10 and 11 year old we played until after 10pm in candlelight. Only stopping to hear the morepork and to check out possums with torchlight. Was a great location to play the game in!