Last weekend, 28 volunteers travelled with the Waikato Science Club to Pureora Forest to help the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society with kōkako conservation.
Funded by the University, the group was made up of 27 students and one academic, Professor Kim Pickering. They spent two nights in the Pureora forest, trekking around the Okahukura valley to fill bait stations. Their work aligns with this year’s Conservation Week focus: eradicating pests to grow New Zealand’s native wildlife numbers.
Working throughout the weekend, the volunteers baited over 950 bait stations, spread throughout the 1000 hectare forest. Since 2016, their work baiting these stations has helped reduce the pre-baiting figures from 67% to 14% on the Rat Trap Index, a tool used to measure the amount of pests.
Waikato Science Club volunteer coordinator and Master of Science (Research) student Anita Person said it was great to see the positive effects of their work first-hand.
“We went on a night walk and saw native wildlife, including wētā and glow worms, which was quite special for the students,” Anita says. “We also went to a talk about bats hosted by the Department of Conservation. Throughout the weekend, students were able to socialise and make connections with industry and other people interested in conservation and New Zealand’s bio-diversity.”
The Waikato Science Club takes students on three trips to the Pureora Forest Park throughout the year. In September and October, the students fill and top up the bait stations during the kōkako’s breeding season. They empty the bait stations again in February to prevent bait shyness occurring, as the bait becomes less palatable with time.
The Waikato Science Club gives back to the community through volunteering and conservation efforts, as well as helping students gain valuable experience in the field. If you’d like to get involved, check out the Waikato Science Club Facebook page, and keep an eye out for information on upcoming trips.