Operating a trapping area in the Te Mata and Tapu valleys, the Thames Coast Kiwi Care group works to preserve and grow the southernmost remnant population of Coromandel Brown kiwi.
The Thames Coast group was formed in 2006 with assistance from the Thames Coast Protection Society, and now operates as an independent incorporated society, with a membership of more than 130, a coterie of 35 volunteer trappers, and a steering committee which meets monthly. It enjoys strong community support from local residents, businesses and holiday home owners, as well as neighbouring farm owners.
An annual newsletter is printed and distributed locally, and is also viewable online. The 14 trap lines are studded with DOC-200 traps placed every 200 metres, and are inspected at least 18 times each year by trappers working on quad bikes, 4WDs and on foot. The longest line takes up to six hours to inspect – a tribute to the dedication of the trappers. The traps are baited with eggs generously donated by Zeagold Foods, and are periodically supplemented with minced rabbit meat. The traps will soon be supplemented by others designed to meet the growing numbers of feral cats – equally efficient killers of native bird life, including kiwi. Since its formation in 2006, the group has caught more than 1200 stoats, weasels and ferrets, indicating a much denser predator population than elsewhere on the peninsula.
Area under protection
Thames Coast group’s work encompasses 1800 ha of privately owned land in the Waikawau-Te Mata- Tapu/Coroglen area and some 600 ha of DOC land in the Coromandel Forest Park. Larger, contiguous blocks of private land within the predator control area were originally chosen for their existing biodiversity values – in particular, the locations of calling kiwi – as well as the presence of actively supportive landowners and the availability of sufficient volunteer trappers: our commissioned kiwi survey in 2010 confirmed the presence of calling birds on farmlands in the Tapu/Te Mata region, as well as others heard close to coastal subdivisions.
Traps placed on private beach home sections along the Thames Coast Road from Tapu to Te Mata form an unbroken defence line.
All but 72 of the 370 traps currently maintained are on private land. For the remainder, the group enjoys ongoing access to assistance with materials, consumables and specialised labour from DOC’s Hauraki office for its trap lines on DOC land. Additionally, the group can call on the expertise of several DOC workers who are members in their own right.
Adding to the control area’s biodiversity value is the adjacent DOC- administered Papakai Ecological Area, which has had regular treatment for animal pest control, resulting in the recent discovery there of Hochstetters frogs and a pair of native falcon: the value of the group’s work for kiwi protection thus extends to other at-risk native animal species.
In 2013 a Memorandum of Understanding, the first of its kind between DOC and a volunteer organisation, was signed to allow the group to maintain and upgrade traplines within the DOC estate, using both volunteer and professional workers.
Each summer, the group promotes and hosts kiwi aversion training for local dogs, and visiting holidaymakers at Tapu and Te Mata are encouraged to have their own animals trained.
May 2014 marked the start of a five-year translocation project involving the Rotoroa Island Trust, Auckland Zoo, and Thames Coast Kiwi Care. With formal approval from Kiwis for kiwi, DOC and local iwi, and with active local member involvement, certified kiwi handlers located male birds within the catchment area, and later attached leg transmitters. When these birds are sitting, their eggs will be removed and taken to Auckland Zoo for incubation and hatching, thence to the sanctuaries on Motutapu and Rotoroa Islands, with some birds returned to Te Mata each year to boost local numbers.
With funds from DOC, the group employs a part-time Co-ordinator, currently Malcolm Macfarlane, to liaise with members, trappers, landowners, suppliers and the public.
Targeted grants from Waikato Conservation Council, Waikato Regional Council and other private funders allow the periodic purchase of specific equipment, materials and services. Funds received from annual membership subscriptions are boosted by fundraising events which in recent years have included concerts by the Thames Ukulele Orchestra and the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band.
If you’d like to help with the Thames Coast Group’s work, or simply would like more information, please visit their website or contact the Chair, Richard Moyle, at (07) 868 4561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.