In Our Nature

Nicola Toki is a self-confessed nature nerd who would never kill a weta, but is a crack possum shooter, stoat catcher and mouse hunter.

Resolution Island's drive against predators

11:30am 16 Aug 2013

The attempt to remove stoats from Resolution Island in Fiordland is a gargantuan effort, but it's a great example of the work going towards a predator-free New Zealand.

Since baby Toki is well and truly on the scene now, I thought it was about time to catch you all up on what happened when I went into the wild with child.  

Three months ago, I was privileged to spend a week volunteering with the Department of Conservation crew (and some other keen vollies) deep in the heart of Fiordland, in one of New Zealand's most remote and beautiful places - the awe-inspiring Dusky Sound. Words can't really describe how awesome it is down there (though I'll give it a go!), so I've tried to include as many relevant pics as possible.

Panorama from Resolution Island

This is the view from Resolution Island - the home of our first ranger, Richard Henry. (Photo: Nicola Toki)

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Dreaming of sleep...

09:20am 14 Aug 2013

When it comes to sleep, currently I'm somewhere between a giraffe and an elephant - but truth be told, I'd rather be a bat.  

If that doesn't make sense to you, perhaps this visual representation of the hours spent sleeping by a range of animals will help.

Animals sleep chart

For me as a mother of a newborn baby (Hunter is five weeks old this week), sleep is almost a foreign concept. Everybody tells you that the first few weeks of life with a newborn baby are a time of broken nights' slumber, leaving you in a zombie-like state that it seems you will never see the end of. I didn't really listen. I was too busy thinking about the labour and birth part. But that is over in a relatively short space of time - what I didn't think very much about was what happens next.

Actually, we're quite lucky: the mini-Bloke is pretty good and only wakes a couple of times for a feed, and if I time his bedtime well, I only have one feed to get up for. But it still means that on any given day, I'm operating on a broken sleep of about three or four hours at a time. I'm now at the point where I'm grateful to snatch any sleep that I can, and I have wholeheartedly taken on the advice from other mothers (who obviously know the tricks) to "sleep when the baby sleeps". In the first two years of a child's life, parents will have missed out on six months' worth of sleep.

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When a weka comes calling

08:41am 08 Aug 2013


Today's post is by guest blogger Moata of Blog Idle. Normal Nicola transmission will resume next week.

Nic asked me quite a while back if I'd be interested in writing a guest post for In Our Nature but I was doubtful that I'd ever have the opportunity. As I said to her then, I'm essentially a city girl. I spend about as much time communing with nature as I do on my taxes (i.e. almost none). This means that when it comes to a nature-focused blog I don't have much in the way of material to work with.

But then the Silver Fox* and I went on holiday around the South Island. This necessarily put us in the vicinity of lots and lots of nature. But what to talk about? The unrelenting aggression of West Coast sandflies? The beguiling, yet stinky, seals of Kaikoura? Or just the gob-smackingly Middle-Earthy beauty of Te Waipounamu?

When I think back to our holiday the bit that really stands out for me is the birdlife, and in particular weka.

About halfway through our two-week break we spent a couple of days and nights staying at Totaranui campground in the Abel Tasman National Park.

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Why 1080 is a dirty word

01:30pm 02 Aug 2013

The term 1080 has long been a bit of a dirty word among a subset of New Zealanders.  I've often wondered whether if it had a nicer name, people would be so quick to react to it. What if it was called "Pest-rid" or "Wildlife rehabilitator" or something far more creative?

Trying to have a rational conversation about the use of 1080 in New Zealand is like trying to negotiate bedtimes with a toddler. Why is it that proponents and opponents of pest control toxins speak different languages and how can we create a better conversation*?

Campbell clip
I spotted this tweet from Campbell Live last week, relating to a cycling story, but making the point that there are certain topics in NZ which get people very rarked up.

Last month, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, released her follow-up report on the use of 1080 in New Zealand. In it she criticised the Department of Conservation in particular for not using enough 1080, and for spending more money on research than on carrying out operations. But if you were to believe social and (sadly) some of our mainstream media, calling for more 1080 to protect native wildlife would seem counterintuitive. So what's going on with the conversation about conservation and the use of 1080 in New Zealand?

Dr Wright raises some good points about why communities get upset about the use of 1080 - in particular she says, "The idea of dropping poison out of the sky just gives you a bad feeling...". To people in areas who feel fearful about this, it seems no amount of scientific evidence, or GPS tracking of 1080 operation helicopter grid lines, will ease their minds. But the facts do provide reassurance if people are willing to accept them.

The problem with the 1080 debate is that the level of frustration on both sides leads to problems trying to communicate with one other on what's really going on out there. I reckon it's time for a truly honest discussion about the use of this toxin, and that means all sides of the debate.  

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Do Kiwi kids get enough vitamin Nature?

11:00am 31 Jul 2013

Is helicopter-parenting and too much "screen time" for our kids creating a generation of sissies? Does nature deficit disorder exist in New Zealand?

Last week's episode of Sunday on TV One had a segment that is well worth a watch, entitled "Cottonwool kids", which asked if we are over-parenting our children in New Zealand.  If you missed it and you've got a spare 16 minutes, it's well worth a watch.

Featured throughout the story were a bunch of adorable kindy kids from Te Anau, who were lucky enough to have a teacher who took them outdoors into the mud and muck twice a week for a bit of tree-climbing, rambling and exploring. These kids were articulate and appeared fearless (I loved the bit of them arguing over who got to hold the dead rat that they had found in a trap!). The story focused on whether or not we've gone too far as parents in this modern world in an attempt to protect our offspring from every foreseeable threat, and whether that had long-term consequences on these children when they reached adulthood. One school of thought is that by not allowing kids to take calculated risks as children, they don't have enough experience to make a risky decision later on, and at the first opportunity can blow it big time - for example, young men behind the wheel of a car.

Kiwi nature kids

Are we letting our kids spend enough time getting grubby and exploring the outdoors?

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