Volunteer work on a new conservation initiative in Mt Aspiring National Park

Volunteer work on a new conservation initiative in Mt Aspiring National Park

Donald Lousley Community Work and Sponsorship, Environment

Sometimes I take some time-out to help the NZ Dept of Conservation do braided river multi day bird surveys, or to help even the odds for endangered species like the Buff Weka, and once even did a bat survey in the dark.

In a joint venture with the newly formed Matukituki Charitable Trust, last week several of us headed into the West Matukituki Valley an hours drive from Wanaka, and laid many 500m lines of tracking tunnels on the opposite side of the river to the popular tramping trip to Aspiring Hut, from the Rob Roy Glacier track up to Pearl Flat. Each tunnel was placed 50 meters from the previous, with a max of ten per line [hopefully straight, and in the bush].

Tracking tunnels simply consist of long semi round or rectangular tubes, inside which a card and an ink pad are be placed.

Typically peanut butter is smeared in the middle of the tunnel to attract animals in and onto the ink, and so when they exit, they leave footprints on the clean card on either end, thus enabling predator control programmes to be tailor made for the predominate species identified.

To get animal densities, called tracking indices, tracking tunnels are placed on pre-determined lines in the bush. Most commonly 10 are placed at 50m intervals along each line. The cards are left overnight, and when collected the next day the footprints are used to determine what animals had been there.

full explanation via >> Tracking Tunnels | Conservation in NZ

Carrying the tunnels can be quite awkward…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnels

While Flo takes GPS settings Stu nails a marker to the tree a tracking tunnel is to be attached to at the base…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnels

We were so thrilled when a rare South Island robin found us and kept us company for awhile. The New Zealand robin/toutouwai is a sparrow-sized bird found only in New Zealand.

They are friendly and trusting often coming to within a couple of metres of people, but we are not always the attraction but rather the invertebrates disturbed by our activities…
NZ native South Island Robin

Crossing the Matukituki River each morning was a bit of chore in the frost, and river levels had to be monitored to ensure we could get back across later…
River crossing Matukituki River Mt Aspiring National Park

Gillian heads off fast with a load of tunnels to warm up as the frost and mist disperse …
Matukituki Charitable Trust's Gillain carrying Tracking tunnels

We did have vehicle support…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project


Sharks Tooth from the Matukituki Valley


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

But it was still quite hard work bush bashing…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

But the views really made up for the sweat lost…
Plunket Dome - Mt Aspiring National Park


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project


Beech tree Mt Aspiring National Park


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

My group having a self congratulatory “selfie” photo using my camera’s timer, to celebrate a job well done…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

After another convivial and restful night in the Aspiring Hut Warden’s Quarters we headed out early the next morning followed by rain…
Aspiring Hut Warden's Quarters


Sheep Mt Aspiring Station, Matukituki Valley


Rainbow Matukituki Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park