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Students lead charge in backyard trapping programme

In just two weeks, students have killed 60 rats in 25 traps set up at Raglan Area School.

With this number in mind, imagine how many rats live within Raglan’s residential zone, says Karioi Maunga project co-ordinator Kristel Van Houte.

“There would be thousands and thousands.”

The work by the young trappers is part of a new, backyard, trapping programme that Karioi Maunga is bringing to the Raglan community.

Karioi Maunga already has 2000 hectares of traplines on the mountain, which are regularly checked by many volunteers.

Kristel says the Maunga trust also works with private landowners around the mountain to keep on top of pests, and it makes sense to extend the predator control to town, to help bring back the dawn chorus to full noise.

“Even people who aren’t into conservation work, climbing mountains and getting dirty, can do it. They don’t have to go anywhere … everyone can contribute by having a trap in their backyard.”

Kristel says there has been an amazing response by Raglan residents since the school got on board with trapping.

“More and more people are coming to us with rat problems,” says Kristel.

“And the effort of one or two traps on your property is minimal.

“Unless the community does something this ecosystem is not going to do well. The work we are doing, we are making a difference. If we weren’t doing this then there would be a 1080 drop every seven to eight years and that’s it.

“If we weren’t doing anything we wouldn’t even hear the birds.”

In the first night of setting their traps, the students caught 16 rats. The next night they got 11. In two weeks they had trapped 60 rats and one stoat.

Year 8 teacher Pete Maloney says Kristel and her team were a huge help in setting up the trapline, and it has been a real education for his students.

The students built the traps themselves, mapped out the traplines using GPS, and record and graph the data of their catch.

“The best thing has been seeing all students gaining self-management skills. They go out onto the trapline in small groups of four and as a group they are responsible for checking, resetting and recording.

“For kids not keen on the trapping there is a group that monitors the birdlife on the peninsula and another group of students that work on educating the wider school using power points and demonstrations.”

The Year 8 class says they are amazed at how many rats they have caught in their traps, and how many there are in the school area.

Student Oceanah Gavin Brightwell says after seeing the results she thinks everyone should get behind the Karioi Backyard project.

“Just being able to kill off the rats around our school doesn’t mean the problem’s solved. If we really want to help save our native birds then the majority of the community has to help. Rats move around and we need to be prepared.”

Student Karis Soanes says the trapping programme has taught her how fast rats can reproduce in such a short time – up to four times a year, with as many as 10 babies at a time.

“These rats are pests so the sooner the town has been rid of them the better, so it would be awesome if everyone pitches in,” Karis says.

Leah Maybee-Waitere says apart from killing birdlife, rats “carry a disease called leptospirosis, which is harmful to humans and can make us very sick”.

Sacha Patterson says the trapping programme has taught the class a lot about the environment and given them skills for the future. “We also wanted to stop the rodents from breeding and coming into our school.”

Inger Vos

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