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 Stephen Horn, Senior Ranger, Antipodes Island Mouse Eradication…
Some things I do in my job include:
Planning the operation for eradicating mice from the Antipodes. This involves looking at previous eradications to learn lessons; setting up monitoring to identify risk; and getting a team together that can carry out the work.
This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:
Restoring sites that are recognised globally for their uniqueness and ecological value.
The project has a large external funding and support component through the Morgan Foundation, who achieved a substantial increase in awareness of the subantarctic region and ran a public fundraising campaign in 2012 that will contribute significantly to the eventual cost of this project.
The best bit about my job is:
Exposure to some really experienced operators and, of course, occasionally getting to work on my sea-legs and visiting some remote places.
The scariest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:
One night, in the 2009 kākāpō breeding season, I was candling two eggs at a far away nest while the mum was away looking for food. As I went to put the second egg back, to my surprise, there was already a kākāpō sitting on the nest, despite me being positioned in front of the entrance!
She had snuck in a second entrance that I didn’t know about and I was left holding the egg. That was one of those “umm…what now?” moments!
After some rapid consultation I carefully placed the egg on the ground, directly in front of her and she simply rolled it under her brood patch, with the other egg, as calm as you like. Sigh of relief on my part.
The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:
There are many inspiring folk in DOC. The dedication of the staff and knowledge applied to the cause of the kākāpō was pretty inspirational.
Graeme Elliott and Kath Walker also deserve a mention, as do some of the folk I hung out with in bivvys on Resolution Island.
Marty Genet deserves a plug for the quality of his jokes and Stan Somerville for some of the best stories.
On a personal note…
Most people don’t know that I:
Have a collection of small tortured bonsai trees that I have had since watching Karate Kid II as a youngster. Weird I know. I can’t explain it.
The song that always cheers me up is:
Raindrops keep falling on my head—it reminds me of Fiordland and, of course, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
My happy place is:
Being up high looking down on a valley, or sitting beside a mountain stream—preferably with the sun playing some active role in the scene.
My best ever holiday was:
Traversing part of the Pyrenees in France.
My greatest sporting moment was:
When I scored the winning goal to beat Otago at the Hatch Cup hockey competition in Palmerston North in 1990.
The win was described in the Southland Times and I think my mum still has the cut-out.
Deep and meaningful…
My favourite quote is:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending a night in a hut with a mosquito” ~ Anon.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:
“Don’t give up until the end—then you can have a cry” ~ 5th form rugby coach.
In work and life I am motivated by:
Friends, wild places, community minded people. I don’t tend to contribute too much to the community, despite good intentions, but always admire those that do.
My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:
As the world grows up and we all get more tempted to shelter everyone from everything—go and show a young person the amazing things and experiences that await in the wilds and remember the value of freedom that you enjoyed in your own youth.
The sense of independence and wonder that comes from exploring is probably the best feeling in the world and the best mechanism to spread conservation.
Question of the week…
What’s the weirdest thing you have eaten?
I worked in France a few years ago and, in the backwoods of the southwest, they shoot anything that moves.
The guys shooting on the property where I worked one day presented my hosts with a pie as a thank you that consisted of a large number sparrow sized birds slow cooked in wine, still with their heads on. Apparently you were meant to chew around the beaks.