You probably don’t need me to tell you that today is Good Friday, but you could be forgiven for not knowing that today—18 April 2014—is also World Heritage Day.

To celebrate, we’re showing off New Zealand’s 3 stunning World Heritage sites.

Representing the best of the world’s natural (and, in some cases, cultural) heritage—and rated alongside places such as the Grand Canyon, the Serengeti, and Mount Everest—these are places that we should be immensely proud of…

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park was the first national park to be established in New Zealand, and the fourth in the world. It is a dual World Heritage area, a status which recognises the park’s important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.

Mt. Ngauruhoe. Photo: Matti | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Mt. Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park

Emerald Lakes. Photo: Matti | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro National Park

Te Wāhipounamu – South West New Zealand

Te Wāhipounamu covers 10% of New Zealand’s landmass (2.6 million hectares) and contains many of the natural features which contribute to our international reputation for superlative landscapes: our highest mountains, longest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers and gorges, most rugged coastlines and deepest fiords and lakes…

Lake Matheson. Photo: Geee Kay | flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Lake Matheson

Milford Sound. Photo: CameliaTWU | flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Milford Sound/Piopiotahi

New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

New Zealand’s wild and beautiful subantarctic islands have not only been honoured with World Heritage status, but they are also National Nature Reserves—the highest possible conservation status.

Home to some of the most abundant and unique wildlife on earth: many birds, plants and invertebrates are found nowhere else in the world.

Enderby Island, part of the Auckland Islands. Photo: Austronesian Expeditions | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Enderby Island

Subantarctic plantlife. Photo: Su Yin Khoo | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Subantarctic plant life

I hope this glimpse into our World Heritage has made your Good Friday even better.

Have a great long weekend everyone!

World Heritage Day is officially known as the International Day for Monuments and Sites.

Learn more about World Heritage on the DOC website.

By Helen Dodson, Takahē Engagement Ranger

What do an All Black and a DOC takahē ranger have in common? Tricky footwork and some good catching skills!

Nifty cornering and tackling are a pre-requisite for catching a takahē in a small pen, but substitute that pen with a 50,000 hectare mountain range and you really have your work cut out for you!

DOC rangers banding a takahē in the Murchison Mountains.

Banding takahē in the Murchison Mountains

In early autumn the ‘Tark Team’ (DOC takahē programme rangers based in Fiordland) headed off into the Murchison Mountains to catch takahē. We wanted to get an idea of how many chicks had successfully hatched over the summer, fit them with identifying leg bands and transmitters and change some transmitters on adult birds. It was also a good chance to get a rough census of the wild takahē population too.

The Murchison Mountains.

A fine day in the Murchison Mountains

Luckily for us, about half the birds in the Murchison Mountains are fitted with transmitters which helps narrow the search considerably. We also had our team supplemented with some specially trained DOC species dogs, including takahē tracker extraordinaire “Yuki”. But it still didn’t all go our way.

Looking for takahē.

Looking for takahē

We used the radio signals emitted by the transmitters to locate the takahē in the large alpine basins. Alternatively the dogs would signal the presence of birds without transmitters.

Then, hunkered down behind tussocks, we played recordings of takahē calling to coax birds toward us, or at least get them to call back and reveal their exact location.

Takahē are territorial and will often reply to the call and even move to intercept an interloper. Our strategy seemed sound, and it worked… mostly…sort of.. except for those birds in Takahē Valley who consistently evaded us.

If you’ve ever seen a takahē, they look large and slow and act quite casual and relaxed. But be aware that it’s all a front. They are fast on their feet and amazingly skilled at ducking and dodging. Our best hope of catching them was when they froze under a tussock thinking we couldn’t see them. The trouble is quite often we couldn’t… and once we could they were gone!

Here’s where I admit I’m not an experienced takahē catcher. Scrambling through and over thick scrub is not a problem and launching into a dive tackle is okay, but the speed that the birds can change directions and appear somewhere completely different to where they were the moment before, is mind boggling.

Thankfully we do have some experienced folk so, if the All Blacks coach is looking for a new wing, I can recommend ranger Glen. Second five eight call ranger Martin and for an open-side flanker you just couldn’t bypass ranger Phil!

A juvenile takahē.

Caught! A young takahē

The good news is we’re fairly confident that this season we’ve got 8-10 new takahē chicks in our wild population in the Murchison Mountains. The other news is sometime soon we’ll be spending a few more days trying to catch those birds that outsmarted and evaded us in Takahē Valley.

Today’s photo of the week is from Long Gully near the Clutha River in Otago.

Long Gully near the Clutha River in Otago.

Long Gully is the site of the newly formed Mata-au Scientific Reserve. This 165 hectare block was originally used as farmland but has been retired from farming and now is managed by DOC as a scientific reserve.

There are several nationally threatened native plants here. You can also find grasshoppers, moths, butterflies, native bees, and in summer, hear the steady drum of cicadas. Ground nesting banded dotterel and pipits also breed here.

By DOC’s Des Williams

DOC staff member, Des Williams.

Des Williams

So you’re planning a little excursion to the great outdoors – it looks so inviting on the DOC website, if you choose the right day.  Ah, yes, the weather! If only I can guarantee a fine day, you think to yourself.

The late Barry Crump had an infallible system. All you need is a mountain somewhere in your landscape. “If you can see that mountain,” Crumpy reckoned, “it’s going to rain. If you can’t see the mountain, it is raining.”

So, I gave Crumpy’s theory a test when recently planning a visit to the popular Mangakara Walk, in Pirongia Forest Park. A quick glance in the direction of Pirongia confirmed the mountain was visible, therefore it wasn’t raining.

Mount Pirongia.

Mount Pirongia

Thirty minutes from Hamilton on tar-seal and you’re at the end of Grey Road. There’s ample parking and a shelter kiosk containing attractive panels with quick-read snippets about the site.

The Mangakara Walk is only 1.5 km and can be walked easily within an hour.

Mangakara Walk sign.

Mangakara Walk can be walked easily within an hour

If you’re short on botanical knowledge, Mangakara is the ideal crash course for identifying a tall miro, a fallen tawa, a large rimu, an ancient kahikatea, parataniwha, rewarewa, kareao, nikau, and the distinctive buttress roots of the pukatea. Each feature is precisely described on colourful interpretation panels.

Native trees on the Mangakara Track.

A great place to see and learn about native trees

And if you’re into geology, perhaps you can offer a plausible explanation for the presence of a large boulder beside the track. The rock does have that worn look that only flowing water can produce, but from where, and when? Certainly, the Mangakara Stream flows nearby – but there are no other rocks even remotely the size of this oddity, in stream or out.

Boulder on Mangakara Track.

Boulder on Mangakara Track

On we go, over a little bridge and there it is – an ideal spot by the stream bank for the picnic blanket. And rocky little shallows where the youngsters can paddle about and cool off before completing the circuit track and heading back to the car.

Mangakara is an enticing spot on Pirongia’s lower slopes – and a perfect introduction to several longer walks towards the summit that you might want attack some other day.

Pirongia Mountain is visible from just about everywhere in the Waikato – as long as it isn’t raining.

By Wendy Sullivan, Partnerships Ranger

Combine a festival of music, local food and beverages, with a pest eradication theme and you get the Picton Pestival! Over 600 Picton locals and visitors enjoyed the event, celebrating Kaipupu Point Sanctuary’s first year anniversary of being open to the public.

Face to face with a tuatara at the Pestival.

Meeting a tuatara

The popular conservation zone drew crowds, with delighted children and adults having the chance to touch the tuatara and get up close with a falcon from the Marlborough Falcon Trust.

Kaipupu Point Sanctuary.

Kaipupu Point Sanctuary

A rat being held by a boy in a deer costume.

A rat!

I attended, along with other DOC staff and a host of different community groups. We were on hand to give out information on pests, pest control and native flora and fauna.

There was an interesting line-up of speakers, discussing the current Battle for our Birds campaign and the innovative local Putanui Point pest control trial.

DOC’s Roy Grose took out Pest Contest and caught a whopping 11 different pest species, unfortunately highlighting how many pests there are in Marlborough area.

Organising an event such as this is not without its challenges or expenses, but kudos goes towards the small committee of volunteers who kept people entertained, watered and fed throughout the day.

The Pestival is growing into a much anticipated Marlborough event.

Kapahaka entertainment at the Pestival.

Kapahaka entertainment

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile DOC ranger Jenny Long, based in Nelson Lakes

Jenny holding a tomtit.

Plucky little tomtit caught by mistnet while I was accompanying a PhD student studying avian malaria

At work

Some things I do in my job include…

My main job is to run one of the six trial sites for DOC’s self-resetting trap trial.

Monitoring wrybill and oystercatcher breeding and survival in the Rangitata River as part of a wind farm mitigation project.

Monitoring wrybill and oystercatcher breeding and survival in the Rangitata River as part of a wind farm mitigation project

This one is based at the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project (RNRP) Mainland Island in Nelson Lakes National Park.

This involves collecting data on trap performance, monitoring mustelids and ensuring the traps in the field are set up and checked correctly.

I also get to join in with a wide range of other biodiversity work including monitoring native species like weka, robins and kākā, trapping/poisoning other pest species and engaging with volunteers and other members of the public.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by…

Mainland Islands were created to be places where we could test new methods and technology, so our work in the RNRP is geared towards improving techniques for tackling conservation challenges nationwide.

The work my teammates and I do also directly helps protect the native species within the area that we do pest control, as well as helping to spread the conservation message to the wider public when they come to visit Nelson Lakes and enjoy the wildlife and stunning views.

The best bit about my job is

Spending most of my time outdoors amongst the beautiful mountains of Nelson Lakes, doing something I really care about, and working with great like-minded people.

Most scenic stoat trapline in this neck of the woods–along the top of the St Arnaud range.

Most scenic stoat trapline in this neck of the woods–along the top of the St Arnaud range

The most surreal DOC moment I’ve had so far was

When we had the NZ Air Force (who have a training base nearby) helping us to take out an old hut, and I was flying along above the forest in a noisy open-sided Iroquois helicopter with soldiers in uniform… I felt like I was in a Vietnam war movie!

Catch of the day: a stoat with racing stripes!

Catch of the day: a stoat with racing stripes!

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

Everyone I’ve met in DOC has been pretty inspiring, from the scientists who do the research to inform decisions, through to the managers who make those decisions, to the rangers who make it all happen by slogging around the hills day in, day out.

But one person who stands out for me is of course my partner Joris Tinnemans, beech tree-shooter extraordinaire, who is always so cheerful and enthusiastic no matter how wet the West Coast bush, how uncooperative the birds he’s trying to monitor, or how many anchors he’s lost overboard!

On a personal note

The song that always cheers me up is

Longtime by Salmonella Dub. Works every time.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week it would be

The person back in time who was most instrumental in introducing mustelids to New Zealand and I’d change my mind!

The best thing to do after a long hot day working at Lake Rotoiti!

The best thing to do after a long hot day working at Lake Rotoiti!

My best ever holiday was

Going to Transylvania (in Romania) with Joris to do volunteer work for a PhD student studying the impact on large carnivores of Romania’s drive for development since joining the EU. It was fascinating seeing the old sustainable lifestyle of the Transylvanian villagers and the incredible biodiversity in their mosaic of forest, wood pastures and small farms. It was also a joy to see carnivorous mammals like foxes, martens and bears in an ecosystem where they belong.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be

A peripatus (velvet worms)! They look like pudgy worms with legs, how could anyone not love them?

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to…

In my dream world I’d love to travel around the world doing conservation work, learning the languages of local people and finding out different ways of approaching the wide variety of conservation challenges we face worldwide. Of course, in my dream world I could also do this without burning tonnes of fossil fuels on long haul flights…

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is…

There are oodles of witty and inspiring quotes to choose from, but a more serious one that helps whenever I’m getting overly frustrated at not being able to solve the world’s environmental problems single-handed is this one:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is

“Give it a go”—given to me by my parents about every single idea I’ve had for a change in life direction, including about-turns between studying graphics, doing a car mechanic course, studying linguistics and marine biology at university, going to vet school, mountain-bike instructing in America, leaving my GIS job to go back to uni to study Wildlife Management… and so on.

I don’t regret any of the things I’ve tried my hand at, I’ve met so many great people and had a lot of memorable experiences.

My awesome parents got me outdoors  right from the beginning! Here’s dad  taking me abseiling at Mt Ruapehu  when I was two

My awesome parents got me outdoors right from the beginning! Here’s dad taking me abseiling at Mt Ruapehu when I was two

In work and life I am motivated by

The friendly and inspiring people I meet everywhere, the beauty of nature, and the unfailing ability of life to be funny and take you by surprise. Like when you’ve organised to go on a great chocolate-fuelled tramping trip over Easter, only to end up in hospital on nil-by-mouth with a second bout of appendicitis (it can happen) while surrounded by taunting Easter eggs from well-meaning visitors!

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…

It’s not a new idea, but for anyone who is already passionate about conservation my advice would be to do your best to share this passion with others who aren’t already involved.

Take friends of friends tramping/kayaking/biking, give family a bird-feeder and stoat trap set for Christmas, become a scout leader and take kids on outdoors trips to get them stoked on nature early—there are myriad ways to spread your enthusiasm and help make it normal to be environmentally aware.

Question of the week

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to and why?

I would change it to Basil, because there aren’t enough Basils in the world these days.

Kiwi releases attract plenty of media attention, often triggering individuals and groups to consider establishing kiwi in their patch.

Now, new guidelines have been created to help people understand the process and requirements.

DOC Ranger, Liz Maire, explains…

Up close—the public get their first experience of kiwi.

Up close—the public get their first experience of kiwi

Kiwi releases are good news stories and generate positive and widespread coverage. This media attention often results in a flurry of public enquiries about how individuals or groups can establish kiwi in their local reserve or the bush block at the back of the farm.

Kiwi releases are good news stories and generate positive and widespread coverage

Kiwi releases generate positive and widespread coverage

 DOC Biodiversity Services Ranger, Pete Graham showing some of the children the kiwi pre release into a burrow.

DOC Biodiversity Services Ranger, Pete Graham showing some of the children the kiwi pre release into a burrow.

The Northland Kiwi Forum Working Group and Kiwis for kiwi identified that, although there are many groups and individuals that aspire to have kiwi in their patch, there was no single resource that outlined the process and considerations for them.

Many individuals described obtaining this information as daunting and confusing.

A guide to establishing new kiwi populations (PDF, 2091K) was developed to fill this gap and provide a first check of the journey they might be embarking upon.

The guide addresses the key considerations of communication, planning and commitment. These are then expanded upon to address:

- Habitat and threat management requirements;

- Identifying kiwi that might be used to establish a new population;

- Key relationships, support and approvals required; and

- Considerations for ongoing management once established.

The Northland Kiwi Forum Working Group in conjunction with Kiwis for kiwi drew upon the experiences and frustrations of applicants and approvers of past translocations in developing the guidelines.

Although drafted with an emphasis on establishing and protecting populations of Northland brown kiwi, the document should also be useful for other kiwi taxa or even other species.

The Northland Kiwi Forum

The Northland Kiwi Forum is a collaboration of agencies, individuals, iwi, community groups, farmers, foresters, and central and local government staff who are actively involved in managing the Northland taxon of Northland brown kiwi on public and private land.

Kiwis for kiwi

Kiwis for kiwi is a non profit organisation that supports the work of more than 80 community groups around the country, providing funding for vital kiwi conservation, breeding and hatching programmes.