When we first meet AJ, he’s dressed in a suit. Fresh out of a meeting at government and into a conversation about the number of rats in his neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine how a day job at a desk might be balanced with traipsing around the bush in Wellington’s town belt, but that’s exactly what we do. Within a week he’s transformed into our trapping guide, and we’re scaling the hills of Kiwifoot, Wild Aro’s most difficult trapping site.
With a group of motivated Wellingtonians, Wild Aro are trying to restore the native birdlife in Aro Valley - a creative, entrepreneurial community living in the stunning halo of Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary in Wellington. They cover over 300 households in their immediate community and manage two trap lines in the surrounding bush.
Their mission is to “bring back the birdsong”, a mission that we, at Goodnature, wholeheartedly support.
It’s an ambitious task for a group of city slickers, but a rewarding one. Wild Aro, like so many community trapping groups, operate in a growing grey area of conservation, not council, not charitable, but a group of driven individuals who just simply want to help. Every week volunteers hike up and down Wellington hills, checking and resetting traps and monitoring the progress of each one.
They’re all united by achieving the goal of Predator Free 2050, “We’re part of a national aim, but we think locally,'' AJ says. It’s obvious Wild Aro feel a deep sense of responsibility to do their bit for their local environment, and restoring the balance between the native and pest species is just the beginning.
Why Goodnature traps?
“One of the challenges for our group, on the route we take [Kiwifoot] is that it’s very rugged, it’s one of the tougher areas to trap in in Wellington,'' he says, and he’s not wrong. From the roadside, it’s an unsuspecting patch of bush in the city center, but the trek into Kiwifoot is steep and uncut.
The A24 Rat & Stoat Trap, enabled with Chirp is a perfect product for the urban trappers. One trip in, every six months to top up consumables (think bait and the C02 canister) is all that’s required. Thanks to Bluetooth tech, ongoing kill monitoring can be checked from the backyard of a neighbour with the Chirp app on their smartphone and reported back to the team, without anyone having to trek right to the trap.
In the 10 years AJ and the team have been trapping in the area, he’s watched the birdlife flourish. A strong trap line, comprised of a range of A24 and box traps ensures the kaka, tui, piwakawaka and many more native birds are safe to sing for years to come. It’s incredible to see the effort that’s gone into the area, and simply standing amongst the natives you can hear the success of their work.
What’s the dream?
AJ puts it simply, “we want a predator-free Aro Valley”. It’s about making sure local school kids are going to hear the birdsong for years to come, and, “seeing the community go to the shops, harassed by kaka”. It’s about restoring our native spaces and allowing them to thrive within a cityscape.
There’s no doubt the work Wild Aro are doing is incredibly impactful, and it’s a privilege to share their story.