Monday, 22 October 2012

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

By Sue Hensley 

After four years of planning and negotiations the translocation of tuatara is underway. This is incredibly exciting for those who have been involved since the beginning, especially researchers Alison Cree and Ann Besson, as well as super-carer of captive tuatara, Valerie Fay.

Ninety burrows have been dug to welcome these ancient reptiles from Takapourewa/ Stephens Island and Nga Manu Reserve. Some of the University of Otago's young tuatara will also be released. Orokonui has been looking after these on-site since 2009 and they have been supplied with food (slaters, meal worms and crickets) by a committed bunch of volunteers. Transmitters and temperature loggers will be attached to some of the tuatara released to monitor their survival and movements during the settling-in period.

Initially, the tuatara will not be in areas for public viewing. This is to allow the tuatara to settle in and disperse. It is hoped in the future to build a track to allow visitors access to tuatara habitat. Meanwhile, a viewing pen is planned for a pair of captive-bred tuatara close to the Ecosanctuary entrance.

The latest round of pest monitoring using the recently intensified grid has shown just 4.1% of ink cards with mouse footprints. This is very pleasing but the last few percent are subject to the law of diminishing returns and these survivors will no doubt take a colossal amount of time and energy to eradicate. No rats were detected this round, which is a fantastic result and increases the confidence that finally the small residual population has gone. The last rat was detected May 2011.

Information and events can be found on or on our Facebook page. The Visitor Centre and café are open daily 9.30-4.30pm.

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