Last week, I had the exhilarating opportunity to join Tarn from Auckland Zoo’s conservation team on an adventure off the beaten track right here at Matuku Link. Auckland Zoo’s Siân has been helping us collect data from our tracking tunnels since Matuku Link first began. Tarn has only just taken over this role.

The day before our adventure, Tarn had put fresh tracking cards in all the tunnels. Our mission was to collect and label them all. For the first time, I ventured into the ngahere above our wetland, starting with a climb to our first line. Tarn expertly guided me on removing and marking the tracking cards, When we finished, he pointed into the wall of green behind the tunnel, saying, “After you!” When I say off the beaten track, I mean bushwhacking through what seemed like uncharted territory! I initially tried to avoid the more obvious obstacles, but Tarn advised that unless we wanted to be out all day, we had to walk in a straight line. That line was anything but straight – I ducked under tree trunks and slipped down banks, hoping for footholds. I soon began to master spotting and following the pink flagging tape and even started enjoying myself! Unfortunately, our first tunnel line revealed numerous mouse and rat footprints.

Once over the top of the ridge we started the second line. This involved a sharp slide down a bank to cross a hidden brook. We ventured higher up the steep ascent on the other side. Thankfully on this line we only found signs of invertebrates on the tracking cards. At the top, we stopped for a drink, taking in a breathtaking view over Matuku Link. After a fun but challenging morning of sliding down banks, clambering over fallen trees, and leaping over babbling brooks, we suddenly emerged onto a well-used track. Back on familiar ground, I headed back to the barn while Tarn bravely continued with two more lines filling up the rest of his afternoon.

Now a little stiff and feeling like I have been dragged through the bush backwards, I sit at my computer and marvel at the efforts so many volunteers and staff from organisations like Auckland Zoo put into improving outcomes for our environment and the wildlife that call it home. Thank you, Tarn and the team at Auckland Zoo, for helping us collect this valuable data. It helps us and our trappers get a snapshot of what is happening and to plan the next step.

~ Rebecca Bowater