New Zealanders are embracing the concept of a Predator Free New Zealand in all kinds of creative ways, and this coming weekend's Picton Pestival is probably the best example yet.
No New Zealand summer can be without an outdoor music festival with food, wine and beer. Unless it's the Picton Pestival, where a possum tail will score you a pint of beer and prizes are handed out for the biggest, smallest and weirdest pests brought in.
To raise funds for the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary near Picton, the supporters have planned a day of entertainment, information and celebration of our native willdife, by highlighting the impact that introduced predators are having on them.
The loss of New Zealand's "deafening" dawn chorus since the introduction of predators is something that breaks my heart, and I've learnt over the past few years that I am certainly not alone in my thinking on this. All over the country, thousands of hard-working volunteers give up their spare moments, Saturday mornings and sometimes whole weekends to join the movement to give our native wildlife a chance to thrive.
The severe impact of introduced mammals on our native wildlife cannot be underestimated. I covered some of the numbers on this issue in this post. What has increasingly dawned on Kiwis is that these four-legged furry animals (especially the stoats, ferrets, weasels, rats - three species - and possums) are sending many of our species toward extinction.
Not only are Kiwis out in a grass-roots force to protect our precious native wildlife from being eaten by predators, but many groups have banded together to create predator-free sanctuaries, such as the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildife Sanctuary. Sanctuary is a great way to describe these places, especially given the meaning of how a fugitive could escape from persecution by claiming "sanctuary" in the church. I feel that these places offer a sanctuary to our wildlife escaping persecution from introduced predators.
Kaipupu Point Sanctuary secretary Johanna O'Connell encourages folk to swap a pint for a possum tail thanks to the good folk at the Mussel Inn.
Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary is a wee haven supported by the good folk of Picton that is made up of the peninsula you can see as you come in on the ferry. It's got a fence across it to keep predators out, and the forest and birds have been slowly regenerating ever since.
I think the concept of a "Pestival" is a brilliant way to raise awareness of the threats to our native wildlife, to learn more about how to deal to the pests, and to support a community-led initiative to give Picton a pest-free haven. If you're in Picton on Saturday, March 23, go there and support this excellent event. It promises to be a fantastic experience. Oh and don't forget to bring along a possum tail (to swap for a pint), or a dead pest to enter in the competition. Huge props to the Kaipupu Point Sanctuary team for such a neat idea and let's hope this becomes a regular addition to the Kiwi summer festival series.