Subtitled – Spot the Real Gannet!
Part of the Auckland Zoo conservation work on Rotoroa Island is involving the establishing of a gannet colony. Gannets already live around the coast of New Zealand so you may wonder how on earth do you persuade gannets that you have you desirable real estate for them to settle in?
The answer is with ‘realistically’ painted artificial gannets and by playing gannet noises over a loudspeaker to attract them in to land.
At the time of the photograph below, only one gannet had made home there, and had made friends with the artificial ones. Sad in one way, a possibly joyous start to a new colony in another way. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Can you spot the real gannet?
I wanted to just focus on one volunteer activity that has been incredibly eye-opening for me while helping out on Rotoroa island. That activity is picking up litter which has arrived on the beaches.
Casual visitors to any tourist location are often blissfully unaware of the work that goes on to keeping them looking pristine. That little piece of paradise requires a lot of work to maintain it. I have been amazed for all of the wrong reasons about what sorts of items appear on beaches.
There are those items which, of course, are deliberately left by people (not everyone follows the request to take rubbish home with them), and some which may have accidentally ended up in our seas and then on the island, but I have found the following things on a regular basis:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic clothes pegs
- Plastic bottles and bottle tops
- Fishing line and floats
- Bits of balloons (often including ribbon attached)
I even found a hat once! Sadly, I also found a dead penguin after a big storm.
My message is simple, first consider if you really need to buy and use such objects (surely we are past needing huge volumes of plastic bags now?). If you do need them, consider whether you can use biodegradable versions or re-use those items before you get rid of them. Finally, if you have to throw them away, first check if you can recycle before you dispose of the item in the safest place possible – and thus give the wildlife in our seas a chance to avoid the huge number of contaminants that arrive there every single day.
Humanity is an abomination where preservation of our earth is concerned. If we all take small steps, we can one day hopefully give future generations something to be truly proud of before it is too late.
Back in January 2016 I posted the first part about my visits and voluntary involvement on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland (link here if you’d like to re-read). During the most recent summer, I had the pleasure and indeed privilege of returning to Rotoroa on a regular basis to help out the Trust in the day-to-day running of the island.
Volunteer jobs are never going to be glamorous of course, but helping tourists have a more special visit to this little slice of paradise, as well as doing my bit in assisting in the conservation of native species is an absolute joy. I realised that from when I set foot on the boat in the morning until returning to land in the evening, nothing else matters in the world except being part of this wonderful conservation island with a unique human history.
Apologies for the slightly lesser quality of one or two of these pictures, which were taken on an iPhone.
I think I have alluded over time about my dislike of New Zealand housing. I suppose that across the world houses have evolved to best try and meet the climate challenges of that area. I am not sure that New Zealand housing has evolved that much.
A “typical” house here is made of wood and has a steel roof (I use the quote marks because so many houses are quite individual due to a culture of self-building, not like the UK identikit properties). It is lovely to hear the rain hitting a steel roof. An example house is just below…
New Zealand’s climate varies massively from the far north to the far south and yet you would think that solar panels had only just been invented, that no-one can count to two given the amount of single glazing, that wall and ceiling insulation doesn’t exist and that air conditioning, electric blankets and dehumidifiers were the way of the future. Use of firewood seems quite common.
I am of course being quite sarcastic above, but houses that are far too hot in summer and far too cold (and indeed damp) in winter clearly have a problem. The phrase “rug up” is coined here for those times when you just have to wrap up warm while indoors in colder weather.
Finally, houses that are not fit for purpose are also probably not healthy to live in, especially in the colder months. There is almost a stubborn attitude that says “I can put up with a few cold months because I don’t need this stuff for the rest of the year”. The sad thing is that people continue to build these low quality houses. It is pathetic.
I would say this, if you fit double glazing, your house will be warmer in winter AND cooler in summer. If you fit insulation, you probably won’t need any electric heating at all. If you fit solar panels, you will probably have hot water provided for a lot of the year.
New Zealand has a reputation for being a “green” country, but the housing is about as poor as it gets, hopelessly energy-inefficient…and yet it carries a hefty price tag to buy it. Go figure. This country is incredibly short-sighted and wasteful and needs to get itself into a much greener gear. Give us greener houses and not greenhouses please!
During my time in New Zealand and my increasing interest in Conservation of native species here, I feel a important question is at the centre of this…is it murder? Is it right to preserve species by killing others?
When people arrived in New Zealand, it marked the beginning of the end for many native species such as flightless birds (like the Moa) either because they were hunted or because people brought species with them which predated on native species or increased competition with them.
At the end of the day, people are to blame. The real difference between New Zealand and many other places is that as this is a relatively new country, we live in a more enlightened age and people have a chance to reverse those mistakes and save those we have impacted for the future.
However, to do this, rats, stoats, ferrets, mice, possums and more have to be managed by trapping, hunting, poisoning etc…often killing other species in the process. I find this quite hard to accept in some ways but also acknowledge that without it many species do not stand a chance. Conservation is, in this case at least, about killing…but people also need to change in the way they behave and in the way they manage their pets (cats and dogs in particular).
The New Zealand government has stated that they want New Zealand to be completely pest-free by 2050. This is an incredibly ambitious statement of intent and one which I would love to see become reality because a land without wildlife is barren and without joy.
There have already been some remarkable success stories such as rescuing the Chatham Island Black Robin from just one surviving female and I hope that more rescues can rejuvenate this land and many others around the world.
It amazes me when I think about it just how much plastic (and other materials) we throw away and don’t recycle on an ongoing basis.
This morning, it occurred to me that on buying meat in the supermarket and it being put in a plastic bag (in addition to its existing plastic tray and cling film wrapping) that that bag would be used for about ten minutes until I got it home. This is truly appalling wastage and is not uncommon either. So many of the things we buy are excessively packaged (do we really need cereal in a bag AND a box – for example?) and we buy so many things that might be used for negligible time or purpose.
The oceans are becoming increasingly polluted by plastic. I have seen statistics that by charging people for plastic bags that their use has gone down by around 90% in the UK which is a staggering figure. I have recently been pleased to discover that all of the major supermarkets in New Zealand are offering a recycling service for soft plastic packaging which is great news! The amount of litter I now generate has dropped markedly.
In a time when we are worrying about climate change, perhaps it is also time to really ask ourselves about how many of our Earth’s dwindling resources we really need to use and look at how disposable any manufactured items will be (thank goodness those silly plastic toys aren’t in cereal boxes any more!) and tax them accordingly.
Maybe Kinder Surprise can just be a chocolate egg in future!
It is around a year since I chose to leave my job with the intention of doing voluntary work. On a weekly basis I help care for sick and injured birds and have had the joy of dealing with all manner of species since then, from the very small to the very large, from garden birds to seabirds, from the very common to the very rare.
Many of the species are native birds which are part of a conservation fight against extinction, but non-natives are equally valued which is something I value too.
Anyway, I just wanted to share with you the joy of meeting an orphaned Little Blue Penguin who has been doing well and will be released back to the wild when the season is right. Occasionally I have to take a step back and pinch myself because how many people in this world have even seen a penguin outside a zoo…never mind picked one up, fed it and interacted with it? Amazing experiences!
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, even if it is on a part-time basis! Life is short!