Ranger Louis and the ultimate DOC experience

 —  26/10/2011
For winning What Now’s Ranger for a day prize, Christchurch’s ten year old Louis Harris got to go up to Auckland for the ultimate DOC experience.

Their feathers feel like hair with too much gel in it!

The adventure begins

Louis and his father Graham, met Biodiversity Ranger Hazel Speed and I at Auckland airport bright and early to begin the adventure.

The two-day trip involved a ride out to Motuora Island to help release three kiwi chicks with the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust; a night at Sandspit Holiday Park; and a day tracking takahē, checking up on tīeke eggs, and playing with rodent dogs on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands.

One cute chick!

It was a well-rounded ranger experience; there was some disappointment (not being able to find a takahē signal), some success (finding Motutapu Island’s first tīeke eggs), and some gross bits (having to put wet socks and shoes back on and trek through swampy grass). But it was all part of being a ranger!

Day one on Motuora was spent with members of the Motuora Restoration Society, exploring the island and learning about all the hard work that goes into keeping it safe and suitable for the kiwi (who were ultra cute and very well behaved). It had been pouring with rain (but had luckily stopped by the time we’d arrived) so the ground was a bit of a mess—this is where the gross bit fits in. Because of the 5 am start to get to Auckland in time, we were all exhausted by mid-afternoon.

From left to right, rangers Nick, Louis, Andrew and Hazel

On day two we ferried out to Rangitoto. “Welcome to my office,” Hazel told us when we arrived. All the tourists started walking and wandering around but, as rangers, we were met by Rangitoto staff Andrew and Nick, who had a DOC ute waiting for us. We were super-confused when Hazel said we were going to Motutapu (not knowing how close it was), and then amazed as we crossed the small bridge to a completely different landscape!

Andrew gave us a safety briefing and then away we went. Takahē hunting, track walking, hill climbing, trap checking, bush slipping, egg finding, photo taking—we did it all. And then it was time for lunch at the house with John Neilsen and his three rodent dogs (the first hedgehog dogs in New Zealand, and possibly the world!).

Trying hard to find a signal

Meeting the dogs

Louis, who’s always wanted to be a DOC ranger, thought at the start that he’d like to be a mountaineering/biodiversity ranger (with a focus on kea, his favourite native bird). However, after meeting John and his furry friends Tui, Polly and Iti toa (the four month old pup), he might be re-thinking his career aspirations.

“I think the highlight of the trip for Louis was the interaction with John’s dogs,” said Graham.

Peanut butter?

“Even though he has his own dog at home, there was something special about Johns’, especially [Iti] Toa,” he said.

After lunch (and a few games of catch) we crossed back to Rangitoto (about 10 degrees hotter because of the black scoria) and walked to the summit. Toa and John came too, while Hazel followed a tīeke pair around the crater to listen to their dialect.

Graham, Louis and I at the summit of Rangitoto

“Both Hazel and John’s passion and knowledge of their jobs was clear to see and we really enjoyed the time spent with them,” said Graham.

The competition was run by TV2’s What Now show and DOC during Conservation Week. To enter, children had to say why they loved New Zealand. Louis’ entry—the only video submission—stood out, with a lot of effort clearly involved.

It was a whirlwind couple of days out in the field (Louis even fell asleep halfway through day one!) but the little guy was up for anything and everything. With his enthusiasm and effort, he’d make a great future addition to the team as DOC’s first dog handling, mountaineering, kea specialist ranger!

Tui, Louis and Toa having a laugh