Volunteer for a day

At work, we get one day a year off to volunteer for any (charity) organisation. The list of organisations we can dedicate (a small amount of) our time and energy is long – one can do anything from cooking in a hospital, planting trees through to collecting donations for the welfare of animals. I have chosen to go possum hunting!

Possums are a major pest in New Zealand. They have been brought over from Australia by European settlers as a source for food and fur pelts. Suitable climate, plenty of food and the lack of natural enemy contributed to uncontrolled numbers of possums in New Zealand. They are a threat for native birds (as they eat bird eggs) as well as for the farming industry (by spreading diseases). New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) is trying hard to reduce the number of possums in the country.

My friend, Kristel, is running one of such conservation projects, called Karioi – Maunga ki te Moana (restoring biodiversity from mountain to the sea). With her team, they are looking after Mount Karioi in Raglan, catching possums, stoats and rats, trying to bring the native birds back where they belong. I decided to join their forces for a day.

First, I had to do some reading, to learn about what and why am I actually doing. Then I had to prepare traps and bait and get ready for the bush.

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My other friend Val, an experienced volunteer, joined us and the three of us started our mission. Kristel and Val showed me how to check a trap, open it, clean it, and replace the bait.

IMG_6120 2IMG_6092IMG_6100I successfully sorted out my first trap. I was a bit disappointed that all of the traps were empty, although this only means that Kristel is doing an amazing job and has Raglan’s pests under control.

It was my turn again. I guess I got a bit cocky (“this is pretty easy, I can totally do this, in fact, I’m a pro by now”) by that point. I approached the trap and reached in the box without checking first if there is anything in it or not. I grabbed the trap, pulled it out and… I still have nightmares! There was a dead rat, covered in blood, with bulging black eyes staring at me (well, not really staring as the rat was dead, but if it was still alive, it would be staring directly at me) hanging off the trap. I was totally caught by surprise, freaked out, screamed and jumped. The trap with a rat flew in the air, nearly falling back on my head. I was in tears. And so were my friends! Just that they were crying of laughter. “Aaaaahahaaahaa!” When I got my breath back I managed to ask: “And what exactly is so funny?” Kristel was holding the rat by now (which was not a pleasant sight either). “Aaaahahaaa, you’re such a city girl, Lana!” Hm… I guess I am a bit softer than I thought I was… 🙂

IMG_6109Luckily (at least for me), that was the only dead animal that we found in our traps.

A dead rat or not, it’s been an awesome day. Not just because I put my time and energy for a good cause, but also because I got to spend an extra day in Raglan (still my favourite place in the world) with my gorgeous friends (I still love them, even though they were laughing at me for the rest of the day).

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