As hunters we just wanted to give back. Over our time hunting and fishing the Upper Waioeka we have seen Whio numbers plummet to the point where we thought we would lose these comical little creatures from the area’s rivers all together.
We managed to pull together a group of like-minded backcountry individuals by leaving notes in local hut books and writing in hunting magazines asking for help. The reply was deafening, turns out hunters really do care about the environments they hunt in and in particular the Waioeka. We now have volunteers from as far away as the South Island, Wellington, Tauranga and Gisborne all signing up to help.
Luckily Game Gear came to the party and decided to back the project financially. It’s somewhere the owner has hunted for years and the idea of conservation had been on his mind for some time. He just needed an ethical way to go about it.
We have been inundated with volunteers. The local Enviroschools Wai Restoration Programme helped us to lay out 3.5km of accessible trapline in just one afternoon. It’s incredible to see such a program producing such skilled conservationists. If I had the means, I’d employ these students tomorrow but told them they need to finish school first. Everyone is keen to get involved from retirees to school groups. The Goodnature A24 stoat traps we are using only need to be checked twice a year and two weekends is something our busy volunteer force is happy to commit to.
Currently we have 17km of trapline comprising of 170 odd traps under protection, with a plan to lay out another 9km in August. There’s still a lot of available river habitat and plenty of territories for juvenile Whio to move into.
Seeing some incredible early success with multiple kills under most traps and birds paired up ready to produce their first clutch of chicks in a long time this season, we are looking to expand the project. Theres still some prime Whio habitat that needs protecting and we have the volunteers to do it.
We just need local businesses to get involved and support this groundbreaking project for the region with sponsorship of traps, lures and gas. It’s a great story to tell and makes for some pretty exciting staff trips.
For a long time hunters have been seen as the antithesis of conservation but we are here to say that’s simply not the case. We care about the environment and are giving back just as much if not more than any other backcountry user group and are having a lot of fun doing it.
If you’re keen to get involved with the Eastern Whio Link contact Sam Gibson on 0277750016 firstname.lastname@example.org or @sam_the_trap_man on instagram.
Words & Photograph by Sam Gibson