By Michelle Crouchley, Community Ranger in Te Anau
Hut Ranger Evan Smith’s nightly hut talks at Lake Mackenzie Hut have gone a long way to help predator control on the Routeburn Track.
One man, one mission, one amazing milestone.
Evan started working at Lake Mackenzie Hut in 2002. As he returned each season, he noticed the number of native birds along the track starting to dwindle.
Evan had a good idea of what was causing this. He’d noticed an increase of stoats in the area. He had even seen them running along the track with birds in their mouths.
At this point, Evan could have sat back and thought that it was someone else’s problem to fix – but he decided to take action instead.
Evan started by installing eight stoat traps around the Lake Mackenzie Hut; hoping this might give trampers the chance to keep seeing a friendly South Island robin or rifleman.
He also began using his nightly hut talk to teach trampers about the problem introduced predators pose for native species, even offering the less squeamish trampers the chance to view his latest kill.
His passion and commitment soon bore unexpected fruit as a group of trampers offered to buy a trap to add to Evan’s network.
Expecting to receive an occasional donation, Evan was taken aback by the hordes of trampers eagerly donating to protect the native birds along the track.
Johan Verhagen walked the Routeburn Track with his family and said that Evan’s hut talk was a highlight of their trip.
“Evan’s passion and dedication toward the Routeburn Trap Project was quite apparent, and this passion was certainly contagious amongst the trampers in the hut that night. We were all so inspired, after listening to Evan’s presentation”.
Now, four years on, Evan has had over 2,000 trampers contribute to the project. His trapping network extends approximately 20 kilometres, from the Harris Saddle to the Divide, and is set to join up with a trapping network on the other side of the Harris Saddle, supported by Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy and the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust.
This will also link in with a trap line along the Hollyford Road managed by Dick Shefford, from the Hollyford Museum Charitable Trust.
Evan’s vision of “giving the birds that belong here a chance” is now becoming a reality. What started as a line of 8 traps has become part of a network that extends the length of the Routeburn Track.
He hopes, as a result of this project, the children and grandchildren of Routeburn trampers will be able to enjoy spotting more native birds when they walk the track.
I have heard Evan Smith’s talk and agree that he is an avid environmentalist with a passion for our native bird protection. But can I say this, I found it disconcerting being asked for a $25 donation for predator control on one of our Great Walks. Is the budget of DOC so limited that this now has to be the case? There is a grand and very expensive guided tour hut run by concessionary interests just 50 m. from the McKenzie Hut and others planned on The Routeburn. Are these people being asked for a donation as well? Is the profit earned by DOC from these commercial interests channeled directly to predator control to ensure the protection of wildlife as a feature on this Great Walk and many others?
Hi Suzanne, thanks for your feedback. Trampers are under no obligation to donate at the end of Evan’s talk, and all proceeds raised are channeled directly back to predator control through the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust. Many community conservation projects take place in Fiordland National Park, which actively seek public support for their continued success.