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Newsletter: What's been going on inside the fence

April 2021

All up Great Barrier has turned on some pretty epic weather these past few months. With the exception of our borders still being closed, we have still seen plenty of kiwi’s coming through the sanctuary gates. It has been brilliant to have our accommodation full of families, and lots of groups walking our loop track, joining in on a guided tour or just enjoying a plum in the sun from one of Fitzroy house gardens trees.

School Holiday Programme:

Back in January we had a great day hanging out with some kids from Kaitoki and Mulberry Grove school. As part of their school holiday program they spent the day at Glenfern doing scavenger hunts looking for native species, designing super killer rat traps and exploring our loop track. Lots of fun and these kids had some epic imaginations.

A Banded Rail in the Mail:

On the 11th of Feb we were sent a box addressed to Glenfern from the local legend Karen Walker. Sent up the island in true barrier form on the local postal van. The box contained some food, a rescued banded rail and some instructions on its release into it’s new home within the predator proof fence. The piece of paper stated that “this rail is a fussy fart and only likes the square type of cat biscuits” Who’d have known? Nevertheless, the newly named Brandy is very happy familiarising herself within the sanctuary and often pops her head out of the bushes to check in on you while you are out and about. What a gorgeous wee character.

A predator fence can be a blessing and a curse. It is brilliant in that it keeps most pests out. But being a so called, “leaky fence” Low tide provides an entry point around each end of the fence and is almost an immediate invitation for unwanted guests like cats. These guys are a huge threat to our vulnerable native species especially our ground nesting seabirds that call this sanctuary home. Over the past 2 weeks we have caught the same cat on camera, prowling through the sanctuary. Well what do you know, on day 10, this cat turned out to be mum, plus her 2 kittens and a whole lot more frustration for us. The trapping efforts doubled. 1 cat down, 2 to go. Thank you to Murray, his dog Pork chop and Sarah and Tui for your expertise and canine noses. Pointing out scat and helping us paint a better picture of where this cat is going at night. For now, all native species be on high alert.


We were very fortunate to have 2 interns join us for the busy summer period. Jackson spent 3 months with us at Glenfern. He had previously visited us earlier last year while on a polytech course completing his certificate in conservation, and was keen to put his new skills to use. Thank you Jackson for the hard mahi you put in, you certainly made a significant dent in the rat population. We wish you all the best for the future.

We also had the pleasure of Huia’s company. A person with a very cool name who just happened to grow up with a love for birds. Huia spent 6 weeks volunteering with us over the summer. She was super excited to spend one of her days conduction some black petrel monitoring up Mt Hirikimata with Biz Bell. They checked over 25 burrows and more than 8 of those had chicks in them. Most burrows still contained eggs, some of which you could hear chicks chirping inside and see pipping away at their shells. Thanks for your help Huia and have fun on all your upcoming birding adventures.


It seems to have been a big year for rodents for everyone. With warmer climate and more food on the ground rats are breeding quicker than ever. Luckily they are absolutely loving the peanut butter and licorice in our traps at the moment. Over 353 rats have been trapped in the last 3 months. Our scheduled rodent monitoring took place in February. 4 times a year we place 60 tracking cards inside tunnels along our index lines within the Predator fence and 20 cards outside the fence, where there is no rodent control. This gives us an average of the rat population inside the sanctuary compared to outside the fence. Results came back slightly high but expected for this time of year, with 8% inside and 20% outside. However prints inside were very light compared to the heavy traffic of ship rats outside the fence.

Upgrades: Aotea contractors have done an amazing job on upgrading the top section of our loop track. The wait was totally worth it, and it has been very cool to see repeat walkers coming back to complete the full loop and get up into the canopy of the beautiful ancient kauri tree.

A familiar face returns

The legend himself, Scott Sambell returned in March to volunteer his time and brain. Scott for many years has been creating systems using ArcGis in order to solve problems and collect data within the conservation industry. Wanting to share this knowledge he scheduled the very first Geek retreat which was held at Glenfern. We had a wide range of brilliant people from Ngati Rangi, DOC and Maungatautari come and participate. After being given the authentic Scott tour of the sanctuary him and his group of geeks spent 3 days immursed in the void of ArcGis. His sessions were not just in theory, but also out in the field collecting and analysing real data. Along with some help from Milly the conservation dog. Thank you Scott for organising such a great weekend.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of Glenfern this summer. The upcoming months will bring us some more brilliant volunteer groups, including our usual schools from our friends over the hill at Hillary Outdoors, more bird action and some much needed rain.

We hope everyone has a fabulous easter Ngā mihi nui, The Glenfern Team

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