Predator pests; rats, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs and possums have all infiltrated Ōtari. The possum population grew steadily over decades. In 1993, an estimated 12 possums per hectare were counted in the forest! Of course, none of this was helpful for our birds, their chicks and eggs, or our native plants. We’ve fought back.
In the 1990s, Greater Wellington Regional Council declared `Otari a ‘Key Native Ecosystem’ and targeted the possums with a vengeance. During three consecutive nights of intensive trapping, they caught well over 800 possums! After about six months of continued control work, Wellington City Council took on the role. The birds started to return, while a whole range of plants, their flowers and seeds no longer eaten by the predator animals, began to thrive.
Then, from 2007, it was RAMBO to the rescue. RAMBO, which stands for Rats and Mustelids Blitzing Ōtari, was a volunteer group established to complement the Regional and City Councils’ predator work.
RAMBO was a pioneering group, one of the first of many community volunteer predator control groups now operating throughout Wellington and indeed around the country. It is still going strong, thanks largely to local man Jim Tait who manages the huge Ōtari operation, with Wellington City Council support, along with several other local community predator control groups. Thanks Jim.
Dozens of volunteers have also pitched in and, since 2007, more than a thousand rats, stoats, weasels and hedgehogs have been caught from a network of traps that criss-cross the entire area of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush. As well, RAMBO has taken on responsibility for trapping in Council reserves adjacent to Otari-Wilton’s Bush, and helps monitor a trapline for possums that guards the Skyline Ridge, from Mt Kaukau to Makara Road.
RAMBO volunteers also help Wellington City Council’s bi-annual monitoring of predator numbers, using tracking tunnels that are spaced every 100 metres, in a direct line, through the forest. (Can you even imagine the steep gullies and bluffs and tangled vines and undergrowth that must be negotiated?) And several RAMBO volunteers give a helping hand with neighbouring predator control groups. After all, the predators don’t know about boundaries!
Many of our Trust members are volunteer trappers. Experience in the bush and a good level of fitness are prerequisites.