Making traps at OCF carpentryThe first 100 pest traps built by prisoners at Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) for the Royal Forest and Bird Society have been laid out by volunteers at Tautuku in the Caitlins.

The pest traps were made as part of the prison’s carpentry and joinery trade training and are part of the Forest and Bird Tautuku Restoration Project. The project focusses on reducing introduced predators over lowland coastal native forest to protect native species within the Lenz Reserve.

“The traps are an excellent way for the prisoners to make a really meaningful contribution to an important local community organisation and to the environment, while learning valuable skills for future employment,” says Acting Otago Corrections Prison Director, Lyndal Miles.

“There are lots of opportunities for more boxes to be built at OCF.  There are also plenty of opportunities for carpentry trainees to create an environmental legacy by contributing to a project that will make a significant difference to the future of our native flora and fauna, and make their grandchildren proud. It’s another project that ticks all the boxes.”

Project Manager, Francesca Cunninghame, of Forest and Bird, says the OCF-made trap boxes are the first traps to go along the Fleming River  where a riparian trapping line is being established.

“We hope to be able to effectively reduce the number of introduced predators along the Fleming catchment enhancing the populations of native species still present in the area.”

The focus of the Dunedin, South Otago and Southland branches of Forest and Bird is to increase predator control and restore local native fauna. If it proves successful at maintaining  predators at very low levels then future re-introductions of species, now locally extinct, could be possible.

The Tautuku Basin, including the Fleming catchment, is one of the largest areas of New Zealand’s south east coastal native forest still remaining, representing a once widespread habitat that has been greatly reduced since human arrival. This site is already recognized for its ecological values and still supports a diverse range of New Zealand native species.

The Tautuku Restoration Project has the long term aim of establishing predator control over the 6,600ha combined Tautuku and Fleming catchments, working with a range of landowners and stakeholders. The project is at its beginning and trapping will gradually increase over time.

“It’s really great to have things up and running,” says Francesca. “The guys down there were really impressed with the quality of the boxes. There’s plenty more to do and plenty more traps required to make a significant impact on the populations of rats and stoats.”

The project is currently funded by Forest and Bird Dunedin Branch, Marjorie Barclay Trust, Forest and Bird Grants for Nature and the Speights Fund. It is hoping to secure funds over three years from the DOC Community Fund to extend trapping across a large area of the remaining native forest around Tautuku Bay. This area is also DOC estate and some areas of freehold Maori land. One of the key aspects of the community fund is to encourage involvement across the community for conservation benefit.