In the remote, rural valley of Uruti in North Taranaki, the 16 children at local Uruti School are bursting with pride. They’ve just taken out an Environmental Action in Education Award and have a handsome trophy to prove it.
Uruti is a small school with a big community heart and when the children decided they wanted to help their local kiwi, they rallied their whole community to help them. They’re in it for the long haul. The Uruti Rd trapline has been in place since March 2013 and so far it has caught 20 stoats, along with hedgehogs, the occasional weasel and lots of rats.
It’s the children who keep their parents and other adults in their community motivated. They organise a roster of adults to check the traps each month, fill in the recording sheets and rebait the traps from a bucket of free eggs donated to the school. Each month the older children phone the adult who is next on their roster and remind them where the bucket of eggs is kept and what needs to be done. The children follow up with a thank you call when the traps have been checked. School Principal, Pauline Sutton says the phone system works well. No-one wants to let the kids down.
Pauline says it all started with a Pig Hunt Day. The Taranaki Kiwi Trust came along to set up a display about kiwi and some of the children mentioned that they had heard kiwi in the bush at the back of their homes. They were fascinated to hear that male and female kiwi have different calls. The children were keen to learn about kiwi, so Kris Grabow, field officer for the Taranaki Kiwi Trust was invited to visit Uruti School.
Pauline says her pupils were horrified to learn from Kris that 90% of the kiwi chicks that hatched in the wild will die before reaching 6 months of age. They dubbed stoats “killer machines” and wanted to do something. Next came a night-time visit by the children and Kris to a parent’s farm to listen out for kiwi. Pauline wonders if some of the parents thought they were a little crazy, but at 9.30pm, sure enough a kiwi called! The children’s claims were confirmed. They could, indeed, hear kiwi in the bush at the back of their homes. It was the beginning of a close association between the children of Uruti and the Taranaki Kiwi Trust.
The children knew that if they were going to do something, they would need adult help to set traps. They needed to get their community involved. The seniors did presentations on computer then invited their parents and other adults along to the school one evening. They talked about what they were hoping to do and how the adults could help. Taranaki Kiwi Trust then loaned 48 traps which were set along Uruti Road, roughly 100m apart, in places where it would be safe to check them on the narrow road.
Two years on there are now over 100 traps set around the district, with many families setting traps on their own properties and submitting their catch data to the school. Such is the school community’s commitment to the project that former pupils who have gone on to secondary school still return to take their turn at checking the traps.
Nowadays, the children at Uruti School haven’t just heard kiwi in the distance – they’ve become hands-on kiwi experts. They’ve visited Rotorua to see where kiwi eggs from their wider district are taken to be hatched. Kris from the Taranaki Kiwi Trust has brought a live kiwi to visit them at school. They’ve learned how to hold a kiwi and some have even helped to release captive-raised kiwi back to the wild.
Uruti kids are Kiwi Kids – for real!