7th May 2020

Paradise Protection Programme

While many of our predator free programmes began with a desire to protect birds, Paradise began because of bats.

Located at the Head of the Lake bordering Diamond Lake, Arcadia Station and Mt. Aspiring National Park, the Paradise Trust is a beloved historic site, accommodation for getting away from it all, and has some of the most beautiful accessible beech forest in the region.

Bats are the only native mainland mammals in New Zealand and we are fortunate to still have both long tailed and short tailed bats in our region. In 2011, the last year of his life, the great conservationist Barry Lawrence recognized a roosting colony of bats at Paradise and he suggested to Mandy Groshinski, the manager there for almost a decade, that she use the stock of 5 traps that had been left on the property by an earlier project initiated by Glenorchy local Dick Watson, to protect that bat colony.

Inspired by the bats, Barry’s capacity to teach Mandy what she needed to do, and a chance to deeply support local wildlife, Mandy approached DOC through the community fund for $8500 over three years to support the purchase of traps for Paradise. During those three years Paradise had hard times as in May 2014 the old homestead burned in a catastrophic fire, but in the years before and those that followed, she was able to put in 75 traps, 10 A12s, 10 A24s, 10 Tims, and a few cat traps as feral cats are highly problematic at the Head of the Lake. They have also had professional possumers during the winter as do many of the high country stations around the Head of the Lake.

Mandy’s recently moved on from her role at Paradise. Before she left she shared that among the things she’s learned over the years is how to think about the overall biodiversity of the place rather than species by species. George Gibbs, the author of the Ghosts of Gondwana told her that she should watch the mistletoe. Birdlife is healthy if there is new mistletoe. And if there isn’t new mistletoe, they need to increase their possum trapping. That kind of bio-indicator has been incredibly useful in understanding the overall health of the ecosystem.

The past year has seen an epic rat plague where like everyone else, Mandy said “we are doing what we can.” Their rat numbers of 531 from October 2019 to the start of level 4 speak to the challenges. Mandy said that this year the riflemen are gone and she has not seen any since the rat numbers increased which may mean that they are truly gone. She also noted as many have, that as their stoat numbers have gone down, rabbits are on the rise but that all of these things take time to balance out.

Looking ahead to the future, though Mandy has now moved on, she hopes that Paradise could be used as a biodiversity test site by DOC. If they were to put deer fencing around the scheelite mine area which could be an island, they could then see what would happen with native regeneration and birdlife as Paradise is a natural flyway for birds coming across from the Routburn and Dart Valleys. Currently deer are eating the regeneration so quickly that it’s not possible for proper bird habit to flourish.

Mandy said of her decade at Paradise it has been ‘fascinating watching changes over time’ and that she hopes that her love for the whole of Paradise, but most especially its rich biodiversity, has made a difference.

We’re all sure that it has and are very appreciative of her and all of the Paradise team’s efforts and wish her luck in her new endeavours. Recent data looking at 15 years of Head of the Lake bat counts shows an upward trend of bat numbers, especially in the last two years, which is very encouraging and we can hope that Paradise and the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust’s efforts are all making a difference.

Tips: Early on Mandy created flags for her traps so that the flag is triggered when the trap is sprung. All of the traps are numbered and visitors at Paradise regularly let her know which traps have been sprung. She has seen a large part of her role at Paradise in educating people about trapping and why we are doing what we’re doing. Getting people out and noticing the traps has been a way to do that.

Paradise numbers:

Since inception: 1294 predators removed since recording data in 2015
2020: 181

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