Getting out into nature is great for our health but it’s important to think about our region's wildlife before leaving home.
One problem facing the wildlife in our parks and reserves is animals introduced to the area by visitors, as Auckland Council’s Northern Principal Ranger Scott De Silva explains.
“We’ve had some truly bizarre things brought into Tāwharanui and our other open sanctuaries,” he says.
“Usually it’s people bringing dogs into the sanctuary, but we’ve had people bring anything from goats, guinea pigs and chinchillas right through to people wanting to do a kitten photoshoot”.
Scott says that rangers also have to deal with people releasing unwanted pets, like frogs and birds, into the regional parks and sanctuaries.
He asks that people remember the sanctuaries have been established to protect our native wildlife, especially those that are threatened like the kiwi.
“We are attempting to manage wildlife on their terms”.
“It’s hard enough for our wildlife to deal with natural predator-prey relationships. Introduced species throw the ecosystem out of kilter and can have a lasting effect, even if the interaction is for a short time”.
He says that dogs can disturb shorebirds and waders, with continued disturbance resulting in birds becoming displaced and young birds dying of starvation.
In addition to knowing what you can or can’t take into a park, it is also important to know how to interact with native wildlife in the parks.
“It’s about putting wildlife first", says Scott.
“It is actually illegal for the public to handle wildlife. It is best to leave them alone and give them space”.
With the drier weather there is an increase in wildlife coming out into the open to forage for food, including normally nocturnal species like kiwi.
“Some of our juvenile kiwi are coming out in the day to look for food. They are disorientated and struggling”.
Crowds of onlookers can cause unnecessary distress.
“These birds need quiet space to sort themselves out. The best thing to do is to leave them alone and inform a park ranger”.
“The rangers know the best thing to do and are qualified to assist the birds where necessary”.
Scott suggests a few simple steps when you’re planning your visit to a park:
Plan your trip – know where you are going and what you can or can’t take. For example dogs are restricted in some parks.
Check – both the restrictions of the sanctuary but also your car and gear you take for any unwanted stowaways like mice, rats, ants and skinks.
Leave your pets at home.
Give the native wildlife space – you are entering their home so leave them alone.
Inform a park ranger if you see any wildlife that appears in distress.