Bouquets and brickbats for nature
This has been a summer of extremes when it comes to the care and protection of our native wildlife.
I've come across a few examples while scanning the news over the holidays - sadly too many of the stories had my blood boiling with rage, but there are certainly plenty of "good guys/gals" out there who are doing their bit and giving our native wildlife a chance.
Let's start with the good buggers.
Apart from sending me my much cherished copy of Richard Henry, my mate Graeme Hill (who once led the campaign for the grey warbler to a landslide victory in Bird of the Year, and who grows nettles and carefully nurtures red and yellow admiral caterpillars to adulthood) has set up a kind of "Neighbourhood Wildlife Watch" in his busy Auckland suburb. He's talked to his neighbours to encourage them all to trap rats and other predators in the vicinity, giving the native backyard wildlife a chance to thrive. The tui chicks that fledged unharmed in his garden are a fantastic testament to this approach. Nice one Graeme! I might start one up here too... what about you guys?
The Avon Otakaro Network - for having the vision to try to turn a tragedy (red-zoned land in Christchurch around the river) into an ecological and recreational opportunity for a community. You can read more about them here.
Also, a big shout-out to Matu Booth, a conservation officer at Zealandia, who discovered that a kaka pair had hatched a chick outside the safety of the predator-proof fence. He visited the chick daily to make sure it was all right, and kept an eye on it until it fledged - a huge success given the gauntlet of dogs, cats and other predators it had to run. Matu proved to be quite the babysitter on this occasion. A chick hatching outside the sanctuary is an excellent sign for Zealandia, and long may such birds flourish in our capital.
Kudos also to this unknown wildlife do-gooder who turned around a 1.8-metre shark in the shallows at Oriental Bay in Wellington this month.
This kaka chick is lucky to survive to young adulthood after hatching outside Zealandia's protective fence. (Photo: Kevin Stent, Fairfax Media)
And now for the dickheads...
Some complete ignoramus stole endangered fairy tern eggs at Te Arai Beach. Despite vigilance from DOC staff, local volunteers AND a surveillance camera, someone took it upon themselves to remove two eggs (there are fewer than 50 fairy terns remaining in New Zealand), interfere with the camera and wipe the footage of themselves. The eggs were just days from hatching and volunteers were devastated. Nice one.
Back in the South Island, the threatened black-billed gulls have been getting a hard time. Unlike their red-billed cousins, black-billed gulls nest on braided rivers and are in trouble enough with conservation of their species. They certainly didn't need the tool in Ashburton who drove a 4WD through their colony (that had been monitored by local Forest & Bird volunteers for years). Nor did the black-billed gulls on the Ashley River deserve the stoning of 50 or so of their almost-fledged chicks.
Probably the action against nature that was the most despicable this summer was the idiot (idiots?) who poisoned the water that fed the tanks to the Island Bay Marine Education Centre, resulting in them losing at least half of the fish, and creating heartache and hassle for the tireless marine educators. You really take the cake.
Hasn't it been a hard enough year for our environment without the actions of these morons?
The only thing that really makes me feel better about the recipients of the brickbats award is that so many people were upset and offended by their actions. It seems that most of us do care a great deal after all.
If you could choose a group or individual for a "bouquets and brickbats" award - who would you choose and why?