Getting children out of the classroom, and providing a genuine ranger experience, was a great concept. Having pupils from the three Peninsula schools was pure genius.
Like it or not there is a need for conservation groups to be prepared to pass on the mantle of stewardship onto a younger generation, and the earlier we do this the better.
Out at Okia Reserve—located next to Victory Beach
Peninsula kids are fortunate that they grow up in a landscape inhabited by iconic wildlife species. We can only hope that this experience, and their own inquiry, will develop either empathetic citizens or active conservationists.
“Pyramids” at Okia Reserve
What I really enjoyed about the ranger day was the hands on activities that provided a genuine wildlife management experience.
From exercises in measuring and identifying birds, to pest control and habitat creation, each activity was designed to show what really needs to be done in wildlife conservation.
Hands on. Take aim!
So much of what actually goes on in the field is unknown to the public, and to be able to provide that experience for our school children was great.
I’m sure many of the pupils will share their experience with their parents and family.
Planting at Okia
After events like this it’s good to pause and reflect. One of the things that stood out for me was how much the Peninsula relies on voluntary organisations and citizen conservationists to protect and advocate for our wildlife and landscape.
The voluntary hours, fundraising and hard work put into places like Okia is quite staggering. It also highlights my view that we all have a stake in nature and a role to play in protecting it.
After my experience at Okia it’s not difficult to understand just how important that role is and how rewarding it can be for our children today and in the future.
Today is World Ranger Day, acknowledging the critical work of rangers on the front-line of conservation across the globe.
For us, it’s a chance to celebrate the amazing things that our hard-working rangers do across Aotearoa all year round.
We asked a bunch of our rangers what sort of things they get up to on an average day, and pulled together their responses to bring to you…
A day in the life of DOC’s rangers
Biodiversity Ranger Jamie Quirk, in Turanganui-a-Kiwa / Gisborne, was acting on a call from a member of the public about a New Zealand fur seal that had been found with its lower jaw removed.
Jamie Quirk investigates the death of New Zealand fur seal / kekeno
“This involved an investigation into the cause of death and then burial of the poor seal. It was smelly, cold, and windy, with no furry, cute critters to be seen.”
Out of the wind and cold, in In Kirikiriroa / Hamilton, Ranger Paul Hardy is hard at work on concession applications, while Ranger Jane Hughes is meeting with Waikato Biodiversity Forum Coordinator, Moira Cursey, to revamp the Memorandum of Understanding between DOC and the Forum.
Paul Hardy working on concession applications
Jane Hughes meeting Moira Cursey, Waikato Biodiversity Forum Coordinator
Cheryl Pullar releases a yellow-eyed penguin at Jack’s Bay in the Catlins
While in the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre, Simon O’Neill is: Explaining that crampons, ice axes and experience above the snow line are necessary to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and that one of the guided tours is the best option; advising visitors on local walks contingent on weather conditions and their ability and experience; providing directions to the ski fields and advice on road conditions; and selling lots of gloves, shades and beanies over the counter.
Helping to prepare visitors so that they can explore Tongariro National Park safely
In Rotorua, Partnership Rangers Caraline Abbott, Amanda Vallis and Bella Tait joined staff from across the region to participate in an advanced driver training course.
Staff learnt defensive driving techniques, the importance correct tyre pressure and how ABS (anti-lock braking system) works. They also completed practical driving exercises such as controlling a vehicle in slaloms and correcting over and under steering, check out this video to see their skills in action:
Ranger Jeff Hall.
All this work builds up an appetite and Ranger Jeff Hall, on Mana Island, is “having a lunch break above the south point seabird colony site on Mana Island while clearing vegetation for artificial burrow installation.
“I’m doing this along with a bunch of volunteers from OMV (oil and gas mining) and FOMI (friends of Mana Island), who are supporting seabird restoration projects at the site.”
It’s a busy time for the Visitor Centre Rangers at Pōneke / Wellington Visitor Centre—Don Herron, Jesse Butler and Wendy Challis who, in the space of a few minutes: gave directions to the French Embassy; answered phone call about booking a hut in Rimutaka Forest Park; answered phone call about when the bookings for the Routeburn Track open; replied to an email about camping on Matiu/Somes Island; answered phone call about when the bookings for the Milford Track will open; sold a soft toy kiwi (with sound); gave directions to the nearest public toilet; and answered phone call about Rimutaka Forest Park.
Jesse Butler answering a call from the public
Wendy Challis and Don Herron at the Wellington Visitor Centre
In Hokitika, Ranger Inger Perkins is working on mining issues.
“I met some local people on site, following a small drilling operation undertaken to assess the gold bearing gravels at depth.
“We need to keep the local community informed and to encourage miners to work with them to understand and address their concerns.”
Inger Perkins deals with mining issues in Hokitika
In the same office, Biodiversity Monitoring Ranger, Cielle Stephens, is reviewing a report on deer pellet monitoring in the Arawhata Valley, South Westland.
Cielle Stephens reviewing a report on deer pellet monitoring
“We’re based in Hokitika, but our team is a national team, with off-shoots in Palmerston North and Invercargill, and we undertake all sorts of biodiversity monitoring to establish what difference management is making.”
In Christchurch, Kirsty Percasky is explaining to Girl Guides the importance of getting the roots of lupins out when clearing braided riverbeds.
Kirsty Percasky and Girl Guides clearing braided riverbeds
At Taiaroa Head / Pukekura in Otago, Wildlife Ranger Sharyn Broni is heading out onto the headland to check the predator traps:
“I’m taking care not to disturb the albatross chicks, their hard-working parents, and other wildlife, as I make my way from trap to trap. I stop and detour to read bands of any adult albatross coming in to feed their chick. Necessary because one missing parent will mean a starving chick without ranger intervention.
Albatross at Taiaroa Head
“Today there are many parents arriving due to the stiff southwester. The rain seems to slide horizontally off the harbour as I continue checking the traps for stoats and rats. There are none. After 40 years of continuous trapping on Taiaroa Head, this is not surprising.”
Over in Aramoana, Rangers Tane Belsham, Arnie Elbers and Barry Atkinson are undertaking track maintenance work.
Tane Belsham, Arnie Elbers and Barry Atkinson at Aramoana
In Invercargill, Daryl Eason, Kākāpō Technical Advisor, is teaching kākāpō chicks Heather1, Lisa1 and Rakiura2 to hop on a weighing perch:
“Weighing the chicks daily throughout hand-rearing (and those raised in nests) is the quickest form of health check.
“Up until 45-55 days old the chicks should be putting on weight daily (usually 20-45 grams). Static weight or loss can be the first sign of illness and the cause needs to be rectified before it progresses too far.
Daryl Eason teaches kākāpō chicks to hop on a weighing perch
Daryl Eason teaches kākāpō chicks to hop on a weighing perch
“Teaching kākāpō to be weighed on the swing is very simple and learnt in a few days by the chicks, once they are walking well and have good balance with climbing. They simply learn to step up onto the swing when it’s placed in front of them, initially this may be reinforced with a treat such as a half pine nut.”
We end our day with Gary Cocker, Visitor Centre Supervisor at the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre on Stewart Island/Rakiura.
4.30 pm: It is closing time but a large family with 5 children have just arrived, so I leave them to play and create havoc in the Interpretation Room while I go outside to bring in the signs.
4.35 pm: I usher the children and parents out the door. It has been a perfect winter’s day, cool but with clear blue skies, and in the morning they flew across to the other side of the island and back. They are bubbling with joy and the beauty of what they have seen.
4.40 pm: Inside I have to focus on more mundane matters such as balancing the day’s banking.
4.50 pm: I just finish the banking when a local appears at the window. I had promised to check the name of a shrub for him. With a sample in hand and plant books open we quickly confirm that it is mountain cottonwood (Ozothamnus Vauvilliersii) common in coastal to montane shrubland on Rakiura/Stewart Island.
4.55 pm: I take the recycling (and the local) out.
5.00 pm: It’s time to close up. I have the privilege of turning the lights out in the southernmost DOC office in New Zealand.
Ranger Gary Cocker turning out the lights at the end of the day in the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre
A message to us all from HRH Duke of Cambridge this World Ranger Day