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Kotuku Keas & Council Work Together to Protect Native Snails

Kotuku Keas & Council Work Together to Protect Native Snails

Horowhenua District Council and the Kotuku Keas, a Levin-based Scouts group for children aged five to eight years, are working together to protect native snails.

New Zealand is home to an unusual carnivorous snail, Powelliphanta traversi, and there is a population of the snails in Prouse Bush, Levin.

Like many of New Zealand’s native species, Powelliphanta traversi are at risk from predation by introduced pests, such as possums, cats, rats and stoats.

The Kotuku Keas worked on a two-day project to help Council’s Parks & Property team find out what pest animals are present in Prouse Bush and how many of them there are.

Under the guidance of Horowhenua District Council’s Parks & Property Officer, Ben Wood, the Keas learned to identify the tracks of common predatory pest species and construct tracking tunnels. The tunnels comprised a baited tube with an ink pad and paper designed to capture the paw-prints of animals that walk through. The tunnels were placed in locations around Prouse Bush.

After two weeks, the Keas visited Prouse Bush with Mr Wood to check the tracks in their tunnels and learn about native wildlife and the conservation efforts Council is undertaking there.

Keas leader Debra Banks said the children were intrigued to find mouse and hedgehog tracks and two empty snail shells.

“We learned that it’s important to leave the empty shells in the bush, because they’re an important source of calcium used by living snails,” she said.

The project is the first step in a Council plan to control pest species in the reserve and replace an invasive groundcover plant, Tradescantia or Wandering Willy, with native vegetation. Tradescantia smothers young seedlings and needs to be removed to enable native flora in the reserve to regenerate.

As Tradescantia provides cover for snails, predatory pests need to be controlled and Tradescantia gradually replaced with native cover using a biological approach that will introduce beetles to eat back the pest plant.

“What we find in the tracking tunnels will determine how we approach a pest management plan for Prouse Bush,” said Mr Wood.

“Council’s long-term aim is to control plant and animal pests in Prouse Bush using a community-based approach. We wanted to get people on board with the effort, so we’re delighted to work with the Keas on this project. If the approach is successful, we plan to spread it to other reserves, such as Waiopehu Reserve.”

Ms Banks said the children were excited to be at the forefront of testing the community-based approach.

“The kids are all really excited to be making a difference. Parents are happy about it, too. Not many people know about native snails so this is teaching the children valuable lessons about conservation. It’s neat to be in working on the front line,” she said.


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