By Denice Gillespie, Partnerships Ranger in Kaitaia
I recently visited the Shadehouse, a native plant nursery in Kerikeri, where I had the pleasure of meeting Roger a lizard enthusiast and member of Guardians of the Bay of Islands, a local group working on a diverse range of island restoration projects.
The Shadehouse nursery grows native plants for various community groups around the Bay of Islands. When the plants are ready at the nursery they are taken to whichever ecological district the seed came from and planted.
Meeting Roger from the Guardians of the Bay of Islands
Potting mix which the Shadehouse uses on a regular basis has created the perfect breeding environment for rainbow skink, a pest species from Australia that competes with our native lizard species for food, habitat and space. Rainbow skinks are a threat to our invertebrates, ground nesting birds and other native lizard species. It also reproduces faster and in larger numbers than our native skinks.
Roger showed us various pit fall traps that he had set up around the Shadehouse as a biosecurity measure to trap these invasive pests.
The Pit Fall trap
Roger showing us the trap
The trap is made from a tin can placed inside of a hole with a piece of wood on top and is baited with cat food. The smooth tin walls make it difficult for rainbow skinks to escape but is friendly to our native species who are clever and can escape the traps.
A clever native copper skink that can escape the trap
The traps are checked on a regular basis and they are proving to be very effective at catching rainbow skinks.
If you wish to trap pest skinks seek some advice from your local DOC office to avoid accidental harm to our native species.
The rainbow skink pest
Thanks to Roger and the Shadehouse crew for a great day out in Kerikeri.
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 Jak the conservation dog. Jak is retiring after giving 84 dog years of active service, conserving pest free islands and sanctuaries throughout New Zealand.
Jak and one of his Treasure Islands
Some things I do in my job include:
Me and my handler, Fin Buchanan were one of the earliest teams targeting rodents in the Predator Dog Programme (now known as the Conservation Dogs Programme) for DOC.
Together we have worked on more than 30 pest free Islands and mainland sanctuaries to monitor for pesky mice and rats that threaten to invade. I spent my later years checking gear to help protect the pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:
Making sure no hitch-hikers get a free ride to pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf. I meet many travellers, contractors and school children while checking their gear and this helps raise awareness of the Treasure Islands biosecurity campaign.
The best bit about my job is:
Like I said to Fin in my exit interview; hunting. Oh, and I’m really going to miss the camaraderie of work colleagues, fans, family and tummy rubs!
Jak and human team on their way to Campbell Island
The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… I’ve had quite a few awesome moments with DOC. One of my early journeys was to Campbell Island in the subantarctic region, joining a small human team to test whether the rodent eradication two years before had been successful.
I was also part of a trial by Landcare Research, with my colleague Occi and her human Miriam Ritchie, to determine how effective rodent dogs were at detecting a number of ‘hidden’ rodents at Maungatautari. The results found that us rodent dogs had more than an 80% chance of finding a rodent, if a rodent was present. It was great to show what a powerful tool we are for the protection of fauna and flora, and how we can save the tax payer lots of dollars!
The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:
My handler Fin. We’ve been a fully certified dog handler team since I was fourteen months old, and with him by my side, we’ve had many adventures and discoveries of the rodent persuasion over these past 13 years.
Jack the border terrier and Tui the fox terrier—and part of a long line of pups produced to serve in the name of conservation. My brother Tama worked on rabbits and rats on Macquarie Island and in Tasmania.
I still have an eye for the ladies and fathered a litter only a year ago, of which four of the pups are destined to follow in my paw-prints. I am leaving the good conservation work to the very able noses of my offspring Pai and Piri.
Pai and Piri follow in their fathers paw-prints
The song that always cheers me up is:
Elvis Presley, “Hound dog”.
My stomping ground is:
The Coromandel and Hauraki Gulf, but now that I’m retired, I’m moving to Beach Vets in Waihi Beach.
This ideal location will allow me to scout the beach for attractive bitches, have health-care on tap and hang out at the Waihi Beach Hotel—which incidentally has excellent cuisine and music for both (hu)man and dog. Visitors welcome!
Enjoying his retirement in his new home
Deep and meaningful…
My favourite quote is:
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
― Abraham Lincoln
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:
“Don’t scavenge, it makes you sick.”
In work and life I am motivated by:
Rats, mice, tucker, and balls ‘n’ sticks.
My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:
Check/clean your bags, gear and transport for notorious stowaways; seeds, soil, plague skinks, argentine ants and rodents so we don’t ‘truck’ them around the country with us.
As a retirement gift, Jak was given a special Gold Card and Lifetime Conservation Pass
Conservation Dogs In the news
Question of the week…
How are you finding retired life?
I’m loving it! I’ve slotted right in with my new family—Pip Jones at the Beach Vets—and spend my days between the vet clinic and the house.
I’ve been hanging out with Pip’s mum who is recovering from surgery and we have become firm friends. I also enjoy going to watch Cam, Pip’s son, play soccer—although I have to say my ball handling skills are far superior to the team!
I’ve had a few suspicious moments with Crusty the cat, but we’re getting on great now. I also met a very attractive female border terrier at the pub restaurant last Sunday. There could be a romance in the wind!
An island biosecurity hui was recently held on Matiu/Somes Island to review the best island biosecurity management practices, current biosecurity procedures, and to discuss methods for increasing awareness and participation.
Local iwi, DOC rangers, relevant community groups, island associates and media gathered on Matiu/Somes Island to review the importance of island biosecurity and discuss opportunities for strengthening procedures.
Welcoming the visitors to Matiu-Somes
The hui was not only a great opportunity to hear biosecurity ideas and improve our practices, but also to share those ideas with our partners that help us care for these incredible islands. The reality is there will always be biosecurity risks to our islands.
DOC Island Services Rangers and other DOC staff work hard to keep these islands pest-free by putting considerable effort into removing and controlling pests and carrying out appropriate quarantine measures on islands.
Pest plants and animals can have detrimental effects on native biodiversity, so it was great to partner up with local iwi and businesses to figure out ways to keep pest animals and plants off the islands together.