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By Daniel Deans, DOC Intern

Recently the summer interns at DOC had the opportunity to ditch the spreadsheets, stretch their legs and get out of the office for a two day excursion on Kapiti Island.

DOC Interns on the beach at Kapiti Island.

DOC Interns on Kapiti Island

Every summer, DOC takes on a small group of interns to work in various roles. This year saw the largest contingent of interns that DOC has ever dared to take on at once, with a group of 11 wannabes working for three months in DOC’s National Office.

Interns working with a DOC ranger on Kapiti Island.

Hard at work

Having had enough of us after two months, our managers sent us across the sea on an unseasonably stormy day to spend two days volunteering on Kapiti Island. Home to one of New Zealand’s treasured native bird sanctuaries, we were to spend two days working with local ranger Gen on various island maintenance tasks – getting the hands on work we’d been craving after weeks behind a keyboard.

A weta on Kapiti Island.


The first day involved an invigorating walk to the summit of the island (a surprisingly high 521 metres), where we were greeted with a stunning sight of fog and rain, as well as the occasional weka attempting to steal our lunches.

The journey back down the hill was no less invigorating, having been tasked the glamorous job of clearing drains.

With mechanised street sweepers unsuited to a steep gravel track, clearing the drains involved shovelling dirt and leaves with your boot heel, and bending down to scoop it all up with your hands.

Needless to say the group arrived back to the accommodation rather damp, muddy and exhausted, but entirely satisfied with some good physically demanding labour (who needs a gym when you can do squats clearing drains?). While some retreated to the hot showers, the more adventurous among us thought that the howling wind and rain was the perfect weather for a swim. The sanity of these individuals is now missing somewhere off the coast of Paraparaumu.

An intern on Kapiti Island.

Enjoying nature

During the evening (after several increasingly ridiculous games of Articulate), we were treated to a kiwi spotting tour with Gen the Ranger. While ‘spotting’ is perhaps a bit of an optimistic term in retrospect, we did hear the calls of several kiwi in close vicinity, as well as stumbling on giant weta and other wildlife.

A gecko species on Kapiti Island.


The dawn of day two saw Juliet and team leader Shannan up at a ridiculous hour – running to the top of the island to catch the dawn chorus. The rest of us dragged ourselves out of bed to have breakfast with the cheeky kaka, who were entirely unfazed by the human invaders to their home.

With the sight of the well needed sun, we set out on the morning mission – weeding the tracks. As it turns out, Kapiti Island is quite the ideal working location, with the crew being treated to the melodic sounds of the native bird population as we laboured. Along the way the ever-knowledgeable Ranger Gen pointed out each bird’s specific call, and succeeded in selling the job of Kapiti Island ranger as a very tempting career move.

An intern visited by a kaka on Kapiti Island.

Curious kaka

But unfortunately the trip had to end. With soggy socks and heavy hearts we boarded our boat back to the mainland, having had a fantastic taster into life ‘on the ground’ as part of DOC – an invaluable experience for all of us!

By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington.

Hundreds flocked to Wellington’s Waitangi Park last month for the first annual Pest-Fest. It was a great display of various conservation partnerships in the Wellington area coming together for a common cause—educating the public on pests in New Zealand.

A young girl meets a Wellington gecko up close.

Meeting a Wellington gecko at Pest-Fest

The event included a range of activities for the public, such as weed swapping, animal pest trapping demonstrations, kids’ crafts, information on current conservation research, tracking tunnel tutorials, kiwi conservation tips, advice on how to design bird-friendly gardens and much more.

A ranger with a working predator trap at Pest-Fest.

Ranger Lisa Calpcott setting a trap

Despite being the first Pest-Fest ever held in Wellington, a wide range of organisations attended, including the Department of Conservation, Wellington City Council, Victoria University of Wellington, Zealandia, Forest and Bird, WWF and many others. It was a fantastic example of organisations coming together for conservation.

Pest-Fest was a fun way to learn about New Zealand pests. There were a lot of hands-on activities and demonstrations that really highlighted the teamwork between the various local agencies. The event ran alongside the Wellington Phoenix Community Day and the Farmer’s Market, which attracted a diverse audience.

A young girl and Rimu the kiwi point to a trap and dead rats.

Rimu the kiwi and his friend inspect a trap

It was great to see all the different organisations in one place complementing each other and it was great to be engaging with the community on such an important conservation issue and teaching people how to monitor pests in their own backyard.

Celia Wade-Brown looking at a Wellington gecko.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown learns more about the Wellington gecko

Today’s photo of the week is this beautiful southern forest gecko from the Catlins which was sent in by Philip Melgren of Invercargill.

This gecko is a forest dweller. I have spent many hours searching for populations of this gecko – easily New Zealand’s most beautiful forest gecko especially when a blue eyed specimen is found.


The piercing stare of that big green eye and the brown, green and yellow colouring of this species is spectacular. Unfortunately habitat loss has had a profound impact on their population and the threat classification for this species is listed as declining.

Send us your photos

If you have a great, conservation related photo you want to share with the world (or at least the readers of this blog) send it through to us at

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).

March is Whio Awareness Month. To celebrate this, we profile Ivan Rogers—Whio Ranger in the Motueka Area Office.

A whio gets away from Ranger Ivan Rogers.

A whio nearly getting away on me. This picture gets trotted out at work fairly regularly, to much amusement.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… I’m in the second year of a three year study putting cameras on whio nests to record predation. I’m also tracking them during the moult when they are equally vulnerable to predation. And anything else that comes along, especially if it’s to do with lizards.

Ranger Ivan Rogers is bitten on the finger by a common gecko.

Attacked by a common gecko during hakea control. This was the first one found after a rodent eradication. From being virtually undetectable, they have bounced back strongly

The best bit about my job… is that moment when you find a whio nest and look her (briefly) in the eye.

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… The first time I saw a rock wren. Gareth from Golden Bay had gone for a walk up Mt Perry and had seen one. I had never seen one and I was so jealous that I scooted up as soon as I could and there it was! There turned out to be a family group resulting from a successful nest. Like toutouwai they will perch on your boot.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Kath Smith from Golden Bay. We met when we were hut wardens—a rare instance of an ‘instant’ friendship—she knows me all too well!

Ranger Ivan Rogers holds a bag of fur seal vomit from Tonga Island.

This is me collecting fur seal vomit from Tonga Island

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… was a punk in the very late 70s/early 80s.

The song that always cheers me up is… Roadrunner by the Modern Lovers or anything else with two chords.

My stomping ground is… I’ve had a few—Aro St, Surry Hills, the Heaphy Track…. Now I do my ‘stomping’ in the South Branch Wangapeka.

My greatest sporting moment was when… Kind of a sporting moment: I once rode a Yamaha 50 from Christchurch to Karamea and very nearly back—the front tyre blew out at Woodend so I chucked it behind a gorse bush and hitched the rest of the way….

In my spare time… I breed Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii).

Ranger Ivan Rogers taking invertebrate samples on the Richmond Ranges.

Invertebrate sampling on the Richmond Ranges

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Quick! A pumpkin” (a friend’s small boy. I think he plays for the Rabbitohs now).

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… Keep all your (photographic) negatives.

In work and life I am motivated by… Quick answer: I’m in awe of those people who work with the demented elderly, the profoundly disabled, and the deeply disturbed. What a noble thing to do—how is it they are the low waged?

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… Don’t put milk out for hedgehogs.

If you could move backwards or forwards to any decade in time, which would you pick and why?
It kind of depends on where as much as when doesn’t it? I was a bit too young to enjoy the 70s so that’s one decade I’d go for. Specifically 1970s USA—being around to see all those great bands. In Detroit the Stooges and the MC5 and in New York the last days of the Velvet Underground, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, the whole Max’s Kansas City and CBGBs scene.

Rangers Ross Maley and Ivan Rogers in the Horoirangi Marine Reserve .

Out in the Horoirangi Marine Reserve with my colleague Ross Maley

It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that people love visiting our native animals online at What may surprise you are the native animals people like visiting the most.

#10 Kaka

This amusing, social and boisterous parrot seems to be as much fun to hang out with online as in the real world.


#9 Frogs

New Zealand’s four species of native frog may be cold-blooded, but they’re warmly regarded, and well visited, on the DOC website.

Hamilton's frog

#8 Tui

It’s not too much of a stretch to see why this pretty and popular song bird made the list. 

Tui feeding

#7 Kakapo

This eccentric New Zealand parrot has a huge following, partly due to their high profile ambassador Sirocco, who regularly makes news headlines around the world.

Kakapo chicks

#6 Tuatara

The only survivor of an ancient group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs, tuatara are internationally famous and endlessly fascinating.


#5 Bats

Maori refer to bats as pekapeka and associate them with the mythical, night-flying bird, hokioi, which foretells death or disaster. Despite this rather gloomy association we still love visiting them.

Short-tailed bat cluster

#4 Kiwi

The kiwi is New Zealand’s national icon and unofficial national emblem. The only surprise about kiwi would’ve been if it didn’t make our top 10.


#3 Weta

Beating many a fair and feathered creature, New Zealand’s most recognisable creepy-crawly takes third place.

Giant weta

#2 Eel

These slimy and snake-like creatures obviously have more love out there than we give them credit for.   

Longfin eel

#1 Gecko

One look at the photos on the gecko pages and you’ll understand why these gorgeous creatures made it to the number one spot.

Marlborough green gecko

So, that’s the top 10 native animals of 2011, based on the number of visits each of them received on the DOC website during the year. Do you think visitor numbers have given us an accurate picture of popularity? Did your favourite make the list? Let’s take a quick poll to find out…