Our whole class went on a field trip on the 6th of May to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, which is just 20kms north of Dunedin. It is a specially protected native forest where visitors may see tuatara, the Otago skinks, rare plants like sliver fern and 17 species of native birds, including the endangered ones like kiwi, takahe and saddleback. The ecosanctuary is devoted to sustainability by:
- Building with local and recycled materials (like the green parts of the interior are containers and timber is from old Town Hall and cut-down introduced tree species);
- Conserving water (collect rain water, waste water goes to irrigation and toilet flush);
- Using renewable energy (solar panel on top of the roof);
- Reducing waste (composting organic materials instead of sending them to landfill);
- Saving energy (self-regulated windows on top in the visitor centre to direct air flow and heat).
The initiative of the ecosanctuary is to guarantee “a future for our past” by providing a safe habitat to plants and animals to represent what the land was like before human settlement. Such goal is difficult to achieve and the ecosanctuary’s success can be attributed to several features:
1. Eradication of Pests Thousands of goats, possums, mice are poisoned, killed or chased away. 2. Pest Proof Fence This 8.7km long fence is made from stainless steel for strength and is small and dense enough to fence off even baby mice. It sits on the ground under a layer of gravel and keeps out burrowing animals like rabbits and hares. The hood prevents climbing animals like cats from getting over. No overhanging trees is allowed on each side of the fence so that animals like stoats can’t leap over. and the electric wire on the top is powered and if it touches the loop or a gate is open an alarm will be sent off. 3. Feeding Stations Cleverly designed feeding stations offer sugar water to bellbirds and tuis. Only the kaka is big and heavy enough to get to the “treasure box” at the centre and have a feast of a mix selection of nuts (cashew, sunflower seed, etc.). Cameras are installed for staff to monitor the area with care. 4. Skilled, Helpful and Dedicated Volunteers 5. Good Planning and Implementation In the annual report of 2013-2014, the ecosanctuary set very clear objectives for its development. While restoration of the habitats, fauna and flora of the Orokonui Valley remains the prime objective, advocacy of nature conservation is also acknowledge as an important role. It is conveyed through the media by way of news and feature articles and through radio and television spots. A number of infrastructure projects are also ongoing to make it a better place.
Gorgeous View. Nice Food. Good Cafe.
The ecosanctuary has come a long way and there is still a long way to go. But it’s very reasonable to believe that it will continue to grow and the species will continue to thrive. Being the only sizeable predator-fenced sanctuary on the South Island mainland, the Orokonui Ecosanctuary’s contribution to Dunedin’s wildlife is vast and its value certainly goes beyond that. I’ll surely put it on the recommendation list to my friends who are visiting Dunedin. And I’d like to say a big “thank you” to our teacher and the Poly for taking us there. It’s a wonderful educational experience mixed with pleasure. * Acknowledgment: Photos above are taken by Suzanne on two different trips to the Ecosanctuary. References: 2014 ONHT Annual Report 2014. Retrieved from http://www.orokonui.org.nz/userfiles/Annual%20Report%202014%20AGM.pdf Orokonui Ecosanctuary. (2015). http://www.orokonui.org.nz