Read the latest annual report here Annual Report 2016-2017
Read the latest newsletter OPBG Newsletter_Dec17
Download the map showing the Peninsula divided into control sectors here (PDF).
Download ‘Key Facts about Possum Control Operations on the Otago Peninsula’ here (PDF).
Seen possum sign on Otago Peninsula? – Please email us to say where and when.
See possum scat images here Possum poo images
If you have never heard a possum before, listen to this
Our faithful bird monitors are usually on a pretty lonely job doing their monitoring lines to document the birdlife on the Peninsula. For two days over the past couple of weeks however they were out for some hands on “ears” training and sharing of experiences.
BNZ help hands-on chew carding at Okia and Allans Beach #ClosedForGood
This Wednesday, 23rd of August BNZ volunteers rolled up their sleeves and gave the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group a helping hand during their annual day of volunteering.
Nine keen BNZ staff members voted to donate their day putting out chew cards for possum monitoring at Okia Reserve and Allans Beach on the Otago Peninsula. The group met Moira and Ursula at the Penguin Café in Portobello. After a swift briefing and distribution of the OPBG volunteer high vis vests (that all but covered the fancy BNZ T-shirts – sorry!) everybody continued full of good spirits into the field.
Chew cards were set at Okia Reserve, Allans Beach and the Hereweka track to detect the presence of possums which will enable us to follow up with targeted trapping.
Thank you for a great effort and we hope to have you back some time.
Shaun and Helen Murphy have been controlling pest animals on their beautiful property for the past 10 years.
During this time their approach, methods, equipment and techniques have evolved significantly. This means that it is generally unhelpful to compare year on year results. The most significant change during this time was in late 2013 when they began a move away from poison based rodent control to trap based control. Also in 2013 professional possum control by the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group started in that part of the Otago Peninsula, which made a significant dent in the local possum population.
The controlled area has expanded to 10 hectares, all of which is now under a Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant.
Shaun and Helen have kindly given permission to post their annual Possum’s End Pest Control report for 2016: Possums’ End Pest Control Report 2016
Results from our 2015 Residents Survey 2015 Residents Survey
For those who have missed it, you can still watch Rural Delivery’s Episode 39 from the 26th November featuring our Peninsula Biodiversity Group (including interviews with Brendon, Moira and Bruce) on TV NZ On Demand:
TV NZ On Demand: Rural delivery Ep 39, 26th November 2016 or
Rural Delivery :
Checking out the Peninsula Lizards
An amazing team of dedicated OPBG volunteers carry out valuable monitoring all over the Peninsula to measure the effects of possum removal on the Peninsula environment. They record bird counts, use tracking tunnels to discover small mammal numbers, and check out changes in vegetation. This year lizard monitoring has been added to the list! Dunedin-based herpetologist, Carey Knox of Knox Ecology, has recently completed baseline data collection of current lizard numbers so we can identify any future changes in Peninsula lizard populations.
In October, Carey checked 90 lizard shelters every day for seven days in different locations along the Peninsula. By the end of the week he had recorded over 900 lizards, including 752 Southern grass skinks, 134 korero geckos, and 48 cryptic skinks. Carey even discovered a new population of cryptic skinks bringing the total number of known populations on the Peninsula to three. You might be able to spot some of these lizards living around your place.
Photos and information courtesy of herpetologist Carey Knox,
Southern grass skink (Oligosoma polychrome), previously referred to as common skink
Appearance: Total length up to 16 cm, but commonly smaller. Usually straw brown or darker brown with numerous smooth-edged stripes on the back and sides. Stripes are varying shades of brown. Belly grey/brown to bright yellow and unmarked or lightly speckled.
Distribution: The most abundant and widespread lizard species around the Dunedin area and on Otago Peninsula. Found throughout Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, where habitat still remains. These skinks have adapted to living in a range of native and exotic habitats from rank grass on road-sides and farmland, to native shrublands, forest edges, and sand-dunes.
Korero gecko (Woodworthia sp.), previously known as Otago-large gecko. Also referred to as common gecko.
Appearance: Total length around 16 cm. Upper surfaces grey, olive-grey or dark pinkish-brown. Paler bands, blotches or stripes form intricate patterns on the back, head and tail. Lower surfaces lighter and speckled. Animals rarely have bold stripes on back.
Distribution: Korero geckos are found in parts of Otago and Southland. On Otago Peninsula they are largely restricted to rocky areas, such as hill tops, where sufficient refuge from predators can be obtained. Korero geckos are nonetheless also able to persist at forest or shrubland sites with mature trees (which provide suitable retreats under bark or in holes or cracks). They have also turned up in clay banks and kanuka shrubland, but are generally absent, sparse, or low in number at sites without suitable rocky retreats. The sites where korero geckos have been recorded in abundance on Otago Peninsula all have a good supply of rock.
Cryptic skink (Oligosoma inconspicuum)
Appearance: Total length up to 15 cm. Upper (dorsal) surfaces: back pale reddish brown or chestnut brown through to very dark brown with or without a dark brown mid-dorsal stripe (may be continuous or broken). Sometimes black flecking on back.
Distribution: More restricted in terms of both distribution and habitats-used than the Southern grass skink. Common in some of the damper parts of Otago and Southland, but absent from dry areas. Frequents wetlands, sand-dunes, damp gullies, and rocky areas, which are sufficiently damp and have adequate ground cover. At Macraes Flat they are commonly associated with snow berry. On Otago Peninsula they are known from 3 sites. Two sites are rocky with a coverage of shrubs or vines, such as Muehlenbeckia or Helichrysum lanceolotum. At the third site they are living almost entirely in a slope of the introduced ice plant.
You can find the full report on our “Reports” page or by clicking this link:
September – Backyard Biodiversity
Published in The Star on Thursday 29th September:
A sobering story in the Otago Daily Times (27/05/2016) told of a Portobello family’s much loved pet cat caught in a leg hold trap that resulted in a serious ordeal involving leg amputation (http://http://www.pestfreepeninsula.org.nz/wp-admin/post.php?post=433&action=edit).
The trap was not being operated by OPBG and the family have been very reasonable to talk to and in their outlook on pest control during such a distressing time.
There are many unknowns in this unfortunate incident but marking companion animals that leave the boundaries of home properties is really worth each household considering. Collars are the usual recommendation but perhaps there are some alternative methods that need further thought and discussion, such as dyed fur on ears/feet or even ear tags?
Backyard Biodiversity Project Stage 2 – More funding to develop further
The Backyard Biodiversity project created by OPBG for Dunedin schools & families has received a second boost of funding from MBIE and their Unlocking Curious Minds local grant (http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/2m-connect-young-kiwis-science). The science-based project will build on the 2015 pilot study to develop more appealing and user-friendly ways of recording observations of animals, in collaboration with Dragonfly Data Ltd (http://www.dragonfly.co.nz/news/2016-05-20-ucm-pest-monitoring.html) and the Department of Conservation. The project will run for 6 months, with schools & families activating various monitoring devices to identify the presence of animal species in school grounds and home gardens in September. Watch this space!
What others are doing recently ….
Geoff Simmons, economist and General Manager for the Morgan Foundation, gave the keynote talk for Wild Dunedin recently. He has a regular afternoon slot on Radio NZ called Geoffonomics. Yesterday he was talking about the new funding for a 1080 drop but the last part was more general- economic gains of pest removal, improved technology and community change. A recent initiative has resulted in pest animal traps in 1 in 5 households in Crofton Downs, a Wellington suburb. See link below. Only 12 minutes, worth a listen:
Second possum toxin investigated for OPBG
The new trial of a second possum toxin – Bait-Rite – has begun in a limited number of baitsafe stations that ONLY POSSUMS can access on the Peninsula. The active ingredient in the toxin is sodium nitrite. OPBG have carefully selected this toxin because of some key properties that align with their style of work: 1) very, very low secondary poisoning risk; 2) a high humane kill, i.e. the possums get sleepy after eating the toxin and if they’ve taken the lethal dose, they never wake up again, if they have eaten a sub-lethal dose, they do wake up but don’t associate the experience as a negative one to avoid next time. We’ll keep you up to date with the trial results.
Baitsafe stations, accessed specifically by possums, with balls of Bait-Rite that have been eaten. Three separate squash-ball sized amounts were originally placed inside each station.
Check out this short video of two possums opening the stations here: Bait Safe Edited
JOB VACANCY IN THE OPBG – PART TIME PROJECT MANAGER – read the advert here http://www.seek.co.nz/Job/30829429/?cid
April – A HUGE acknowledgement and thanks for the effort of 11 ANZ Dunedin staff members who came out to assist us with implementing possum control and monitoring devices and revegetation programmes. The weather was clear and blue and the work achieved was to a very high standard. Thanks again ANZ, we hope you can come again.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH VEGGIE BOYS SOUTH DUNEDIN – for continuing to donate apples to us in preparation for our busy winter possum trapping. Fantastic!
Chew cards, Chew cards everywhere! Small, white pieces of folded over plastic corflute are going out in their hundreds over the Peninsula to help detect where the remaining possums are located. They are non-toxic and 100% safe for pets and children. Possums bite the packed lure, last year a nutty flavour and this year aniseed-raspberry, to leave behind a distinct bite mark that reveals it’s presence. We need some more volunteer assistance to put out chew card lines so do get in touch if you’d like to help with this task.
Chew cards for detecting possums
March: Since the start of the year, we have now trapped 5 females of breeding age WITHOUT joeys. This is a new pattern in our data records and one that tentatively starts (we hold our breath!) to show all of our efforts are starting to interfere with possum breeding, as well as continue to cull back survivors.
February: Our First Community Event For the Year, Partnered with Jenny Rock & Lynn Taylor – Combining Art, Science & OPBG.
OPBG Trustee Moira Parker reads some of the environmental pledges made on the back of prints, created by residents and visitors to the Otago Peninsula.
Have a look at the advert here Citizen Sci Notice Feb 2016 and come along to Portobello.
Read about some of the background to this community event on the Predator-Free N.Z. blog here http://predatorfreenz.org/art-exhibition-is-latest-initiative-for-otago-peninsula-group/ and on their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/PFNewZealand/
January: The OPBG have invested in a new type of possum bait station that allows only possums to access the bait. These Bait Safe® stations were developed by the Corliss Family in the Manawatu – have a look at their website: http://www.baitsafe.co.nz/
The novel design of this bait station offers very high bait protection against weather and rodents, as well as for people and pets. It is a very worthy new tool for the OPBG in their effort to deliver targeted control to the remaining possums on the Otago Peninsula.
End of the year publicity for OPBG:
Show Day – 5th December 2015 – all day – Portobello Domain – come and visit the OPBG stall
Place a bid on our trailer load of good solid macrocarpa, delivered to your door. Familarise yourself with our operational gear and take home chew cards to help us map up remaining possums and start planning for rats.
OPBG Public Survey 2015
***DECEMBER UPDATE*** 320 responses have been returned. Cathy and the Trustees will analyse the answers next year and publicise the results.
In November, we launched our 2015 Peninsula-wide survey for residents. You will probably get a hard-copy of a questionnaire in your mailbox but in case you prefer the online option here is the link: http://survey.zohopublic.com/zs/szyfDA
The survey will close at the end of this month (November 30th up until midnight). We’d like to acknowledge and say thank you to Rebecca Bell from Predator Free N.Z. for her work on creating the online survey for us.
The first OPBG survey was conducted in 2009 and helped formed the basis of our possum control programme. The current survey is about the next pest to target and again, we’re seeking feedback from the public to help plan for this future work. Thank you for taking the time to fill the questionnaire out.
Our lovely Tui doing what they do best!
Check out these gorgeous photos taken by Portobello resident Paul Pope
Spring Show of our Backyard Biodiversity Work this year
Pop in and see us on Wednesday November 11th, 6.30pm, at the Macandrew Bay Hall and hear the latest on Peninsula birds, beetles, lizards, and of course possums, in a series of short presentations followed by tea and coffee. We will be joined by some of the wonderful children and teachers who have findings to share from their Curious Minds project work.
More funding from DoC for the next 3 years
Last week, the Associate Minister of Conservation, Nicky Wagner, announced that the OPBG would get $111,000 from the 2015 Community Conservation Partnerships Fund (CCPF). Thank you to the Dunedin Office partnerships team, especially Mike Morrison and John Barkla, for the role they played in securing this ongoing support.
This is great news! The funds will be put towards employing a second part-time staff contractor who will oversee the possum operational work. Our goal is to have the local possum population at RTC1% or less by the end of 2018, as well as stemming potential reinvasions from the city. This will equate to people hardly ever hearing or seeing possums on the peninsula anymore. For the wildlife, we anticipate higher survival of planted specimens, increased regeneration of existing and new bush patches, and less egg and chick predation pressure on local bird species. We hope that this is shown to be the case.
With the possum fieldwork under control by an operations manager, Cathy will focus on the other parts of the OPBG, which are wide and varied and include environmental education, public communications, sponsorship, fundraising.
Sophie Fern, an OPBG volunteer and resident of Macandrew Bay who runs a Timms trap, wrote this about the gathering at Glenfalloch, when the CCPF announcement was made:
“It was a slightly damp afternoon but Glenfalloch was in full flower for the announcement. After catching up with friends (it was a real gathering of the conservation clans) we were welcomed by DoC and Edward Ellison on behalf of the rūnanga. The minister then asked each of the recipient groups to describe their work. She congratulated everyone involved and announced the money for each group. Such fantastic news, and it is espcially exciting to see how this money will make a real difference to our local ecosystem.”
Otago Polytech Student Visit
Cathy met with an interesting group of Otago Polytech Horticultural students and their tutors, Lisa and Paul, at Smiths Creek on the base of Harbour Cone. We talked possums and Lala Frazer from STOP (Save the Otago Peninsula) talked revegetation. A good combination!
Sophie Fern wrote this hilarious account of a day of OPBG filming …..
Have a laugh by reading here Filming by S.Fern 2015
Opening young eyes to natural science
Unlocking Curious Minds (UCM) aims to enhance connecting and engagement of ‘harder to reach’ young people with science and technology.
In July 2015, we teamed up with another Dunedin community group, Landscape Connections Trust, and Dunedin Enviroschools to roll out a Backyard Biodiversity project across schools. This programme is funded by a Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) Unlocking Curious Minds (UCM) local grant, and aims to get young kids thinking about animals pests and biodiversity. We are gifting schools with monitoring kits, comprised of simple, safe field devices that will detect rodents, possums, lizards, and invertebrates in their school gardens. There is also a kit for rotation around the children’s home gardens. These will be used through until the end of the year.
A big part of this project is getting kids to think like scientists about the local environment around them. We show them how to keep records of their data, note observations that may influence their findings, take photos of animals they detect, and take part in an end of year data analysis hui.
Two new contractors join the OPBG as the face of Backyard Biodiversity, Trudi Webster and Ellen Sima. You can read about them in “Who Are We?’ They are in their 3rd week of getting around the schools and are doing a fantastic job engaging the children and teachers with the monitoring kits. We have 17 primary schools, 1 intermediate, and 3 high schools signed up.
You can read more about the start of this project at http://digital.thestar.co.nz/olive/ode/str_daily/
And watch a short clip at http://www.dunedintv.co.nz/content/local-pupils-get-closer-look-their-surroundings
Starting to think beyond possums…..
Recently Predator Free NZ included the below account of the OPBG ‘Beyond Possums: The Next Pest Species’ workshop in their newsletter. You can read more about PFNZ on their webpage: predatorfreenz.org
Strength in numbers: how three groups are turning the tide
PFNZ team member Rebecca Bell recently attended the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group workshop ‘Beyond Possums: The Next Pest Species’, and was blown away by their dedication and commitment to protecting the area’s vulnerable native species. In the past few years, the group has worked with their local community to remove over 6,000 possums from the Otago Peninsula.
Such vital work is being carried out all over the country by an army of volunteers, and nearly 200 groups have already added themselves to our national map. Please get in touch if your group is missing or you know of others!
We’re coming back into Sector 4 for 2015
The OPBG have secured more funding from the Department of Conservation to allow us to return this year to the Peninsula operation block known as Sector 4 (from Allans Beach Rd in Portobello back through to the city suburbs). This includes Portobello, Broad Bay, Macandrew Bay townships and all of the clusters of residences along Portobello Rd through to the farmland boundary adjacent to Vauxhall, Waverley, Shiel Hill, and Tomahawk (you can see the map of this area here).
What you can do:
* Allow us onto your property to check for possum presence.
* Run a trap on your property with our help.
* Become one of our urban coordinators to oversee trap use in your/neighbouring streets.
Look out for:
* Notices advising of our public meetings and trapping workshops.
Volunteers afternoon tea and walk up Peggy’s Hill, Feb 2015 – By Sophie Fern
On Sunday 22nd, OPBG held a volunteer’s afternoon tea at the woolshed up on the side of Peggy’s Hill. It was an opportunity for everyone to catch up with each other after the summer and to find out how things have been going with the OPBG trapping programme. Read more here.
The “possum project” has attracted national attention and received publicity through TV, radio and newspaper articles:
Nightly Interview – Bruce Kyle, Dunedin TV Wed 8th July 2015
Possums sent packing from the Otago Peninsula, The Star, Thurs 2nd July 2015,
Otago Peninsula to become possum free thanks to new technology, TV One News, Sat 9th May 2015.
Persistence pays in pursuit of Peninsula’s pests, NZ Farmer, 7th April 2015.
Coastal Otago benefits, Otago Daily Times, August 28 2014.
Possum-control tactics adjusted, The Star, July 31 2014 p 7.
Mobile groups to tackle possums, The Star, May 15 2014 p 3.
Predators and plagues, Otago Daily Times, March 22 2014 p 45.
Trust gets manager funds, The Star, Feb 6 2014 p 7.
Peninsula possum cull makes a big difference, Otago Daily Times, February 15 2014 p10.
$124,000 provided for conservation projects, Otago Daily Times, Dec 26 2013 p 7.
Peninsula possum population pounded, Straight Furrow, August 6 2013.
City possum study offers conservation potential, The Star, July 25 2013.
OPBG on Radio New Zealand