Whakatipu Wildlife Trust set to Soar in latest founding round

Whakatipu Wildlife Trust set to Soar in latest founding round

The Whakatipu Wildlife Trust is one of two new recipients of SOAR funding, which will be used to help bolster their predator trapping efforts.

Formed in 2017 at the request of DOC and the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Trust coordinates over 70 trapping groups across the Queenstown Lakes District in an effort to restore native wildlife to the area by reducing predator numbers.

Their work includes overseeing, connecting, growing and supporting existing and developing predator-free groups and also partnering with external environmental groups, such as DOC and Forest & Bird, in large scale conservation efforts. Community education is also central to the Trust’s vision. With new groups forming all the time, they play an important role in ensuring the most effective predator trapping efforts are used on local traplines.

Topflite’s SOAR funding will help the Trust purchase 30 Flipping Timmy possum traps, half of which will be distributed to groups within the Trust’s umbrella, with the remaining traps used as a library for setting up ‘possum night clubs’. 

Despite the name, there’s not much merry-making involved at a possum nightclub. It's an extremely effective trapping method that exploits possums’ highly social nature at the height of their mating season. 

Adding a library of traps will allow volunteers to set up possum nightclubs in various spots, eliminating significant numbers of these harmful predators from a zone in one hit.

The Whakatipu Wildlife Trust's Executive Officer Joanne Conroy sees a staggering number of possums on her own trapline, which extends from the Kawarau Bridge to near the Remarkables access road and include eight Flipping Timmy traps and nine DoC 200 rat traps.

“I drive that route all the time and when I noted the number of dead possums on the road, I decided to set up the trapline. I have now caught hundreds of possums along that stretch of road,” she says, adding that the traps supplied by the Department of Conservation make more of an impact on rat and mustelid numbers, which take some time to catch.

“If you're catching things often, you feel you're making a difference. Adding the the Flipping Timmy traps will help to keep our volunteers engaged and enthusiastic. Now is the season for possum breeding and they’re very social, so it’s a good opportunity to take out a lot at once.”

The Trust also works in bird monitoring, with the hope of documenting the connection between trapping lines and bird numbers. Recently, a positive result points to this work having a real impact, with their ten-yearly Grebe census showing an amazing 32% increase in numbers.

Pūteketeke / crested grebes by @martinbarwood courtesy of the Whakatipu Wildlife Trust

Joanne says the Trust’s trap lines are also catching a lot of hedgehogs at present, with these pests finding their way into a wide variety of different habitats, from high altitude to valley shrublands. “Predator trapping in isolated areas is really expensive,” she says. “But we have to be doing this. We can't expect our volunteers to traipse up to Lake Alta and out into the sticks to monitor traplines.”

Topflite is so proud to be helping this enthusiastic group do more good work in the Queenstown Lakes area – and we can’t wait to see their results. “It was really nice to be recognised by the Topflite community,” says Joanne, “the Otago connection is a nice one, and it’s especially nice to be recognised by members of the public.”