Omata school's young trappers help protect native species
Rockco Lister isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, eagerly digging out a decomposed rat from one of Omata School's stoat traps.
The school has several traps dotted through the forest area bordering the property, and the students have a big hand in maintaining them.
Students like Lister,12, are taught to bait up and empty the traps as well as learning about the local flora and fauna.
"They're all off the track so the younger kids can't find them," Lister said.
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While Lister is coy about his possible future as a DOC ranger, he expertly handles the delicate spring mechanism in the trap used to kill the pests.
"We've got the traps so the rats and stuff don't eat some of the native animals like the golden gecko," he said.
While students at the school recently went on a hunt for the the elusive golden gecko they were unable to find one.
However a nearby resident to the school had one land on her last week after it fell from its hiding spot in a doorframe.
Teacher at Omata School Pat Murphy said the students hadn't had any success searching for the gecko in their own forest because the searchers hadn't quite mastered the art of stealth.
Omata School's forest area is recognised by the Taranaki Regional Council as a Key Native Ecosystem (KNE) as it contains native trees and animals like morepork and golden gecko.
Murphy said the area was recognised as a KNE about a year ago but was smaller than other areas under the KNE system in the Taranaki area.
"A number of our students have shown a keen interest in learning about the reserve so now they have a hand in maintaining it," he said.
"The golden gecko is quite a rare find, so we released it into our reserve and hopefully we'll be able to find more in the future."
Environment services manager at the Taranaki Regional Council, Steve Ellis, said Omata School KNE contained indigenous vegetation that was otherwise poorly represented in Taranaki.
"It is a good example of semi-coastal tawa forest, and also contains the native trees kohekohe and pukatea, among others," he said.