Backyard biodiversity at Te Mata School

Department of Conservation —  08/02/2016

Te Mata School students Ahmed Khalid and Lucinda Newman recently visited Cape Sanctuary in the Hawke’s Bay, they share their story…

Last year we visited Cape Sanctuary to learn about sustainability and biodiversity. Cape Sanctuary is on a farm owned by the Robinson and Lowe families.

The predator fence at Cape Sanctuary.

The predator fence at Cape Sanctuary

The team at Cape Sanctuary are trying to get rid of pests like stoats, possums, feral cats, rats, mice and rabbits by building a 10 kilometre long predator fence. They also use a variety of traps and tracking tunnels inside the sanctuary. They bait the trap, so when the pest walks in — “smash” — it kills the pest.

Te Mata School students learning about tracking tunnels at Cape Sanctuary.

Te Mata School students learning about tracking tunnels

The sanctuary is helping to restore the past by bringing back our native species. We think they are doing a good job at Cape Sanctuary because they are saving lots of our endemic and native animals.

After our visit to Cape Sanctuary we decided to make our own tracking tunnels which were put behind our classroom. We discovered that we had hedgehogs and a ferret living in the vicinity.

Hedgehog tracks discovered in a tracking tunnel near Te Mata School.

Hedgehog tracks

We also undertook a classroom activity with an imaginary conservation scenario. To complete the activity we had a list of native and introduced creatures, we then threw dice to determine how many of each type of creature was present in our own imaginary sanctuary. We then decided what we needed to do to correct the imbalance in our sanctuary.

Ahmed Khalid with a kiwi cut-out on his head.

Ahmed with a kiwi on his head

The ‘dice data’ gave us information about threats, habitat and the potential for endemic animals to thrive. It showed us that in our imaginary situation feral cats were easy to spot and we had nine of them. Kererū were able to be found and there were ten of them present. We were helping a lot of kiwi because there were twelve. Unfortunately there was an awful lot of stoats so we needed more traps. Huhu grubs were rare so we needed to provide more rotten trees for them. We had planted a lot of trees in our imaginary sanctuary so there were eight tūī. Tuatara were common because we have lots of rivers with rocks.

Open morning for parents and friends at Te Mata School.

Open morning for parents and friends at Te Mata School

The classroom activity and our wonderful trip to Cape Sanctuary has taught us a lot about conservation. We now have a better understanding of how we can protect biodiversity in our own backyard!

4 responses to Backyard biodiversity at Te Mata School

    Manfaat Buahan 28/02/2016 at 4:36 pm

    A powerful lesson for these students, thank you for your sharing.


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    Megan McBride 15/02/2016 at 11:23 am

    Wow – reading that brought back so many wonderful memories! Room 15 & 16 (Te Mata Primary) learnt sooooooo much about biodiversity in 2015 with the help of Robyn McCool (DOC) and all the wonderful folk at Cape Sanctuary. Thank you to Lucinda and Ahmed for sharing your ideas with us via this blog. Seeing Ahmed in his kiwi hat reminded me of Room 16’s assembly item with Roaty Stoaty, that hungry little pest, gobbling up all those native and endemic animals! The play was a good way to get a very important conservation message across. Children are very good at getting important messages across! I’m sure all the children who were a part of the Backyard Biodiversity programme last year will continue to be ‘Eco Warriors’! Ms McBride