Archives For Bats

Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki updates us on the work to set science-based goals to achieve better outcomes with for our threatened flora and fauna.

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Each January and February, a team from the Māwhera/Greymouth office monitors long-tailed bats in the Maruia Valley.

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We look back at our native species that have captured the attention of the internet world this year.

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Every January a select band of DOC staff head to the Eglinton Valley in Fiordland to measure the populations of our rare native bats.

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This month Auckland Zoo celebrated successfully breeding and rearing lesser short-tailed bat twins. This was the first time this threatened, found nowhere else in the world, species has ever been bred and hand-reared in a zoo.

Now, if pekapeka / bats don’t normally register in your line-up of species that make your heart melt, I have a feeling they will after watching this:

Facts about the short-tailed bat

Adult short-tailed bats weighs 12-15 grams, have large pointed ears, and are a mousy-grey colour.

They eat insects, fruit, nectar and pollen.

They are the only pollinator of the rare native plant, dactylanthus (also known as woodrose).

Their heart rate is 250 -450 beats a minute at rest and 800 beats a minute while flying.

Unlike most bats, who catch their prey in the air, short-tailed bats have adapted to ground hunting and spend a lot of time on the forest floor, folding their wings to use as “front limbs” for scrambling around.

DOC’s work with pekapeka / bats

DOC has a recovery programme to ensure the survival of all species and subspecies of pekapeka / bat. The measures we are taking include education, community-based conservation projects, control of introduced predators at important sites, protection of roosts sites, the development of restoration techniques, and shifting the most vulnerable bat populations to predator-free habitats.

You can help

Become a bat-spotter and assist DOC to determine their distribution.

Work as a volunteer setting and checking traps for a predator-control programme in your area.

Protect native forests. By controlling predators and protecting native forest, you will assist other species as well as bats.

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 Siobain Browning, Community Relations Ranger in the Sounds Area Office.

Siobain Browning with her daughter Lajla in the Sounds.

InDOCtrinating my daughter Lajla – “see how great it would be to be a ranger”

At work

Some things I do in my job include … preparing education material, talking to schools, leading guided walks, assisting community groups in their wonderful work, looking after volunteers, writing articles, keeping track of the hundreds of relationships the office needs to maintain, and taking opportunities to escape the office and get out in the field occasionally.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by … helping people engage with conservation and value its benefit.

The best bit about my job is … doing something I really care about as part of an awesome and supportive team.

The awesomest DOC moment I’ve had so far is … having over 100 people turn up to a walk/talk to see the long tailed bats at Pelorus Bridge. It was awesome and a bit scary! I was so happy to see the level of interest (which was also due to excellent promotion of the event) and very relieved when the bats actually showed up and gave people the chance to hear them!

Siobain and her dog overlooking some of the islands in the Sounds.

My first ever hunting expedition in the Sounds

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is … everybody has something inspirational about them, but Gen Spargo and Chelsea Hall have particularly inspired me by having a dream of a different lifestyle that they wanted and then working hard to make it a reality.

On a personal note

My best ever holiday was … during the summer when I was 18, my parents had the courage and trust to let me go to Greece on my own to volunteer on a turtle conservation project. I spent the whole summer on the beach monitoring and checking turtle nests as well as talking to tourists about conservation. One of the best memories is of sitting on the beach at sunrise watching a nest of turtle hatchlings emerge and race to the sea. It was an amazing summer and confirmed to me that I was on the right path.

Siobain with several members of the DOC team in the Sounds.

One of those special days out of the office – this was a weeding trip to Brothers Island with some of the team

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be … a long-tailed bat. I’d find out where all my batty friends were hanging out in the Sounds so that we can work to protect them.

My secret indulgence is … not very secret—cream doughnuts.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to … in the real world I would probably be a stay at home mum for a while. But in a parallel life I would be doing research in some remote part of the world about some wonderful creature or combining conservation and vet nursing at a wildlife hospital.

A tiny Kihansi spray toad sitting on a rock.

The tiny Kihansi spray toad (declared extinct in the wild in 2008)

Before working at DOC I … spent several years working on a project to protect the critically endangered Kihansi spray toad in Tanzania. The species was only discovered in 1996 after construction had started on a hydropower project so we had to learn about the frog’s requirements and put in mitigation measures to protect it.

It was an amazing time, camping in the Udzungwa Mountains, researching the frog and other species in the wetland, looking for other waterfalls where the frog might live (which it didn’t – the entire global habitat was just a few hundred square metres).

It wasn’t looking good for the toad and by 2003 I was so disillusioned with the aid industry and conservation that I retrained as a vet nurse. When I came home to New Zealand in 2006 I realised that I had to go back to conservation though!

A waterfall between two hills.

The waterfall where I spent five years studying the Kihansi spray toad

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is … I recently saw the seeds of hope exhibition and liked the quote, “We must realise that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more”.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is … by my Dad – “If it were easy, everybody would do it”.

In work and life I am motivated by … my daughter, positive people, cream doughnuts.…

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is … consume less and DO more!

Question of the week

What is your biggest pet peeve? People using “I” or “myself” when they actually mean “me”.

Siobain standing in the snow in Norway.

I spent eight years in Norway—a lovely country with many similarities to New Zealand (but much richer!)

Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

Today we profile Programme Manager, Barry Lawrence, who died at home last Wednesday after a short battle with cancer. Never one to blow his own trumpet, we decided to do it for him…

Barry in the field with the mōhua he worked so hard to protect

An active member of the Wakatipu Environmental Society since the 1980s, two-term councillor with the Queenstown Lakes District Council, mayoral candidate, school teacher, dry stone dyker, shearer, DOC volunteer and most recently DOC Biodiversity Programme Manager, Barry’s contribution to the community and conservation over the last 30 years has been enormous.

As a councillor, he drew up the provisions of the 1995 District Plan controlling subdivision and protecting local landscape values. Out of the office he became a staunch protector of these values, spending countless voluntary hours preparing submissions and appearing at the Environment Court.

The importance of this work and the regard that Barry was held in was recognised in 2008, when he was awarded the Queen Service Medal for services ‘to local body affairs and the environment’.

Barry was a great teacher, shown here teaching colleagues how to mist net

The 1990s saw Barry unleash his passion for species and habitat protection, firstly by developing and staffing the first DOC volunteer mōhua and bat survey projects in the Dart and the Caples. Subsequently employed full time as Programme Manager Bio-Assets in 2002, Barry grew this work into much larger-scale pest tracking, trapping, treatment and bird monitoring programmes, the results of which we all enjoy today.

Barry and Ray Molloy at a local 1080 operation

Great examples of Barry’s relentless pursuit of restoring and maintaining the natural environment in the Wakatipu include protecting mōhua; saving bat habitat from development proposals in the Routeburn; getting a local power company to get on board with falcon research; demonstrating the importance of farm shrublands to falcon habitat; working with a local jet boat operator to fund research into black-fronted terns in the Dart and the Rees; and most recently developing a host of sites for kōwhai plantings.

Barry in his element – an evening filled with friends, stories, food and drink (and a giant haggis!)

In addition to all of Barry’s species and habitat protection, he also led the Area’s RMA advocacy work. With his considerable prior knowledge and skill in this field he was able to secure all manner of gains, large and small, through the process. The recent agreement with a Queenstown property developer to remove a 50 hectare block of mature wilding pines seeding the upper Shotover is a great example of Barry both seeing, and more importantly, seizing the opportunity.

A happy Barry – post beer and looking a bit woolly

Despite all of this work, it is many of Barry’s other more personal attributes that friends and family will remember him by – his ability to cut to the nub of complex issues (1080 being one), his big laugh, long hours in the field, a love of whiskey, beer, cider and Jimmies mutton pies, the DOC staff pig farming collective and his all together far too animated story telling (while driving) on dodgy trips up to Macetown, are just some of the many things we’ll all miss!

Put really simply, as Barry liked things put, he was good fun to be around. He is survived by his wife Pauline and daughters Rebecca and Meg and will be greatly missed.

Check out Barry on YouTube in this Shrublands Foodstore for NZ Falcon clip.