Second Nature: An update from Nicola Toki

Department of Conservation —  09/11/2015
Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki holding a tuatara.

Nicola Toki

Welcome to the Threatened Species Ambassador update! I’m Nic Toki and this is my second time around in DOC, and it is kind of my second nature to rave about our wildlife, so I thought the title might tick the boxes.

I’m only a couple of months into the job, but it’s been a very busy time, during which time I have travelled to a bunch of places, including Taupo, Rotorua, Franz Josef, Abel Tasman National Park, Auckland and Wellington.

Mostly I’ve been catching up with relevant staff working on threatened species, and getting the word out about this new role. You can see some of what I’ve been up to on the DOC website.

Rowi release, Franz Josef

In October I was lucky enough to attend the largest ever rowi kiwi release at Okarito, just North of Franz Josef. When I last worked for DOC there were only 150-200 rowi left on the planet, so to release fifty of our rarest species in one day was an awesome achievement.

Rowi. Photo: Katrina Henderson.

Rowi kiwi

During that time, I met the kiwi team who blew me away with their passion, knowledge and dedication. The rowi team spent all day Wednesday on Motuora Island locating and catching fifty juvenile rowi for release (helped by one of our four-legged rangers, the beautiful Rein, who you can even find on Instagram). Despite such a big day, which meant they arrived back in the very early hours of the morning, they were up at the crack of dawn to health-check the rowi before the birds’ first foray into their new wild home.

Nicola Toki and Franz Josef DOC Ranger Heath Sinclair transferring rowi. Photo: Katrina Henderson.

Nicola Toki and Franz Josef DOC Ranger Heath Sinclair transferring rowi

The local Franz Josef community were there to see the rowi before their release, and we were hosted by the Te Wao Nui Forest Lodge, who are hugely supportive of DOC and the rowi programme. Richard Bungeroth, Te Wao Nui’s general manager is passionate about this local species of kiwi, and in addition to hosting our celebration before the rowi release, last month he hosted a Kiwi Fun Run fundraiser in Franz Josef (in fairly inclement conditions) which had a great turn out from the locals.

Rowi release. Photo: Katrina Henderson.

Mark Davies, Nicola Toki, Richard Bungeroth and Jo Macpherson celebrating the rowi release

Along with the rangers and some of the community, I was lucky enough to be part of the team releasing rowi into the bush on Okarito Spit, and the rangers showed everyone present how to handle a kiwi and let everyone there release ‘their’ kiwi into a suitable burrow for their first night in the wild. I was chuffed to be a part of it and very proud of a (by now quite tired) kiwi team. Thanks for having me guys!

Kiwi transport box. Photo: Katrina Henderson.

Kiwi transport box

Local community trapper Ian James posted a photo up on Twitter to show that our young kiwi have already been out fossicking around, which is an awesome sign of them settling in to their new homes!


Critter of the week

I’ve got a weekly slot on Jesse Mulligan’s Afternoons show on National Radio, usually at about 1:30 pm on a Friday.

Jesse’s main criteria are that I pick things to talk about which are the opposite of our charismatic megafauna (uncharismatic microfauna?).

Knobbled weevil. Photo: DOC.

Knobbled weevil

So far we have traversed the wonders of Archey’s frogs, knobbled weevils, bat flies, Canterbury mudfish and leaf-veined slugs. I’m always keen on possible critters to discuss, so if you have a species that you feel doesn’t get enough kudos, let me know, and I’ll try to get it on National Radio.

Canterbury mudfish. Photo: DOC.

Canterbury mudfish

Virtual Great Walker

At the beginning of Conservation Week I was lucky enough to join the amazing kids from Hillcrest Primary School who had won our “Virtual Great Walker” competition.

Showing Northland gecko Kermit to the kids from Hillcrest.

Showing Northland gecko Kermit to the kids from Hillcrest

Over 150 entries from schools around New Zealand were received. Students had to send in entries that showed their commitment and passion for learning about our Great Walks, as well as clocking up some kilometres to show they understood the distances involved.

Nicola Toki holding a gecko.

Nicola holding Kermit

Hillcrest Primary schoolchildren went above and beyond with their obvious passion and dedication to learning about their local nature and Great Walks and DOC and Air New Zealand felt they truly had demonstrated what the competition was all about. The kids were flown in from Hamilton to Nelson by Air New Zealand and were treated to two nights on the Abel Tasman Great Walk in Abel Tasman National Park with some of the DOC team. I was lucky enough to join them along with ‘Kermit’, my Northland green gecko (yes I have a permit) to have a yarn to the students about threatened species. They knew a lot about our nature!

You can see for yourself how their journey began with this story featured on TV3 News. It was great to see kids getting out of the classroom to experience nature. Conservation Week also featured highly.

The DOC Threatened Species Ambassador is proudly supported by Air New Zealand.

8 responses to Second Nature: An update from Nicola Toki


    Hi Nic. It would be great to hear some Critter of the Week slots on species from our underwater world too! Thanks so much for getting the message out there about our threatened species. You’re doing invaluable work.


      Hi Alison, yep the underwater world is definitely on my radar – just need to come up with some cracker critters now. Thanks for your feedback, I find it all really useful (especially helpful suggestions!). Nga mihi, Nicola


    re: Critter corner on Radio NZ National – how about the slartibartfast / Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Galaxy fish from Fiordland…kind of weirds me out in a critter kind of way :o)

    & Great to see you got a Te Papa Atawhai T-shirt & a blog space back Nicola!


      Hi John, finally worked out how to log back into wordpress! I think the slartibartfast fish is a great suggestion! I have dutifully tucked it away for a future episode. thank you!

    john kearvell 10/11/2015 at 6:07 am

    Hi Nicola. Massively important post to take on. I worked for nearly 20 years in DOC, and was field team leader for the orange-fronted parakeet team before leaving in 2013. I will watch your progress with great interest. Best of luck.


      Hi John, thanks for your comment, and for your hard work for OFPs!!! I’m planning on doing some orange-fronted kakariki work with the team here soon. Lovely creatures, who definitely need a lot of help.


    Hi Nicola. So pleased to read about the fantastic work you are doing. One species I would love to hear about is help for the rock wren. Not many people seem to know about them.


      Hi Fran, great idea – I am quite a fan of rock wrens and I sit next to the scientists who are working on them, they were chuffed to hear your suggestion. watch this space! Nic