Students onboard for rat trapping

Forest and Bird volunteers with Gulf Harbour School students, their rat traps and soft-toy versions of the birds they are trapping to protect.

Gulf Harbour School’s Year 5 students have joined the fight for Hibiscus Coast birdlife by having rat traps in their home gardens – catching 12 rats in two weeks.

The students built their own traps at the school during two workshops last month, run by Forest and Bird’s Pest Free Hibiscus Coast coordinator Jenny Hanwell and Forest and Bird volunteers.

Small groups nailed together wooden boxes with a metal gate on either end – one with an opening for a rat to climb inside to a baited snap-trap. The kits were donated by Auckland Council.

After two weeks, students were given the option to return their traps so they could be redistributed to other families.

Only 12 traps out of 70 were returned.

Jenny says the reasons for returning traps included moving out of the country imminently, living in an apartment with no garden, and being squeamish about dead rats.

While Forest and Bird have built traps with local schools before, this is the first time families have been invited to record their findings on data

Forest and Bird’s eventual goal is to create community hubs where one in four houses will have an at-home trap, starting with areas closest to Shakespear’s pest-proof fence.

“Schools are a great way to create a network within the community, and a project like this needs community-wide backing,” Jenny says.

The traps are child and pet safe and certified humane by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Jenny says she makes a point of focusing on conservation and what is being protected, rather than the facts of killing animals, when teaching the students.

“We make sure the children know that some animals that are pests in New Zealand aren’t a problem in their countries of origin – but we have to control them here because our unique native species can’t survive otherwise,” she says.

From what the students say, the message has sunk in.

“It’s important that we keep checking and re-baiting our traps, because rats breed really fast and then they will hurt more birds,” student Isla Goode says. “I’ll be the one clearing out the rats in my house – my mum is too scared!”


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