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By Jack Mace, West Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy Office

Two tents on top of the Price Range near Mt Cloher.

Camping on top of the Price Range

I recently spent the weekend camped on top of the Price Range just north of Mt Cloher. For those who don’t know where that is, it’s in the coastal ranges between the Whataroa and Waitangi Taona Rivers, just north of Franz Josef. This wasn’t a jolly recreational camping trip though – we were up there to work, taking an inventory of plants, birds and mammals.

Our campsite itself was tucked into a snow basin, thankfully almost all of the snow melted. We camped on the eastern side of the ridge, in an area dotted with the bright yellow of snow buttercups (Ranunculus sericophyllus), and with views out over the Perth and Whataroa Rivers as far as the Garden of Eden Ice Plateau.

View from camp towards Mt Victoria and the Garden of Eden - (l-r) Chippy Wood, Mike Perry, Anneke Hermans, Pete Doonan.

View from camp towards Mt Victoria and the Garden of Eden – (L-R) Chippy Wood, Mike Perry, Anneke Hermans, Pete Doonan

We spent 3 days working down in some hellish steep and uncomfortable country but were well rewarded. Over 75 species of plant in our 20 metre x 20 metre plot, including Mt Cook buttercups, native foxgloves, eyebrights, alpine cress and several species of prickly speargrass.

Kea swooping around camp.

Kea swooping around camp

We spotted a good number of tahr and chamois through the binoculars, including a few potential trophy heads, and had kea and pipits cavorting around our campsite. We even got see the endangered rock wren and giant alpine weta.

Male rock wren scolding us for intruding in his territory.

Male rock wren scolding us for intruding in his territory

Not bad for a weekend’s work.

The view from the top of Price Range near Mt Cloher.

The view from the top of Price Range

You’ll hear the dance of the kakatark before you see it.

Ever wondered what you’d be or do all day if you were a New Zealand native species? Well, just recall your name and date of birth, and follow the guide to create your own ‘species sentence’! For example, if your name is Sirocco Kakapo and you were born on the 23rd of March 1987, your sentence would be ‘I’m in love with fairy terns and my head grows bulbous because I snap my hairy pincers in the air and wave my feelers like I just don’t care.’

All parts of the sentences are based on characteristics and traits of New Zealand species, so mix and match them around to come up with your own ultimate Kiwi character.

Step one—what month is your birthday in?

January: I can’t stop thinking about
February: I look like
March: I’m in love with
April: I want to adopt
May: My feet smell like
June: I’m scared of
July: My laugh sounds like
August: My best friends are
September: My hair style resembles
October: I have the brains of
November: I compare myself to
December: I dance like

Step two—what day of the month is your birthday on?

Never get between an Albaru mother and her bulbous-headed hunting chick

1 – Elephant seals
2 – Kauri snails
3 – Whio
4 – Long tailed bats
5 – Great white sharks
6 – Takahē
7 – Tuatara
8 – Archey’s frogs
9 – Koaru
10 – New Zealand fur seals
11 – Humpback whales
12 – Giant bullys
13 – Pīwakawaka
14 – Kākā
15 – Tīeke
16 – Kārearea
17 – Yellow eyed penguins
18 – Mohua
19 – Kōkako
20 – Grand skinks
21 – Albatrosses
22 – Weta
23 – Fairy terns
24 – Maui’s dolphins
25 – Little penguins
26 – Kākāpō
27 – Eels
28 – Pāteke
29 – Kakī
30 – Ruru
31 – Rowi kiwi

Watch out for the God of all ugly things.

Step three—how old are you?

0–5: and I can never be tamed because
6–10: and I keep replacing my teeth because
11–15: and my head grows bulbous because
16–20: and I like elaborate ritual courtship because
21–25: and I call out ‘zeek zeek, zonk zonk’ because
26–30: and I’m God of all ugly things because
31–35: and I butt males with my tusks because
36–40: and I mate when it rains because
41–50: and I lick my eyes because
51–60: and I sing sweet songs to my partner because
61–70: and I’m heard before I’m seen because
70+: and I wear two coats of fur because

Step four—What is the first letter of your name?

Hey girls, d’you like my boom?

A–C: I’m too busy scoffing my face with hoho—Mmm.
D–F: I’m trying to attract the ladies with my boom hole in the ground.
G–J: I deserve an Oscar for my ‘pretending to be hurt’ performances to predators.
K–M: I’m actually a dinosaur—200 million years old!
N–P: Me and my harem girls flick sand over ourselves to keep cool.
Q–S: I snap my hairy pincers in the air and wave my feelers like I just don’t care.
T–V: Clever’s my middle name—I can swim and hunt within hours of being born. Boom.
W–Z: I get to sleep all winter and can use my wings as legs.

Harry the Hooker lays down the house rules in the harem.

Tell us what your conservation style is below and remember to share your style with your friends and family for Conservation Week 2012.

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…