Food for thought

It doesn't take long for the first kaka to arrive at the feeding station in the morning. Photos:...
It doesn't take long for the first kaka to arrive at the feeding station in the morning. Photos: Alyth Grant
A mixture of sunflower seeds and specially formulated pellets goes into the hopper that only kaka...
A mixture of sunflower seeds and specially formulated pellets goes into the hopper that only kaka can access.
Supplies lined up on the bench ready to fill sugar-water bottles and hoppers.
Supplies lined up on the bench ready to fill sugar-water bottles and hoppers.
The takahe come running for their daily half-cup of pellets.
The takahe come running for their daily half-cup of pellets.
Fresh water in a clean bowl is part of the routine, though the birds happily drink from the pond...
Fresh water in a clean bowl is part of the routine, though the birds happily drink from the pond as well.

Volunteer Brenda Ives reports on the shopping list behind the daily routines and needs of the wildlife at Orokonui Ecosanctuary. 

No matter whether you live in a palace or a cottage, there is always shopping to be done to feed the family. But what if the family is a variety of wildlife?

Imagine if you regularly had to buy 20kg of sugar, or 16kg of sunflower seeds - you are going to need a sizeable trundler! These are just two of the items on the Orokonui Ecosanctuary shopping list.

The sugar is used to make up the daily portions of sugar water (½ cup per litre of water - never use honey!) for the bottles at the feeding stations along the public tracks. Although originally intended to ensure adequate nourishment for the newly-introduced kaka, our native bush parrot, they also attract the other nectar feeders, such as bellbirds, tui and waxeyes. While those birds are well-known to locals, they are new to overseas visitors, and the cause of great delight. So the feeding stations become a focus for birds and visitors alike.

The sunflower seeds are part of a pellet/seed mix put into the feeding station hoppers for the kaka.

Also on the shopping list are multiple bags of parrot pellets, each weighing 11.34kg. They come in two varieties, ``maintenance'' and ``breeder'' pellets. We mix the two to provide good nutrition to keep the kaka healthy and in good breeding condition. Mixed with the sunflower seeds, they are a healthy food source that supplements the natural food the birds find in the bush.

A 20kg sack of specially-formulated takahe pellets is made at Massey University and delivered to the ecosanctuary. The takahe hopper is filled each day at 11am and the four members of the takahe family gather to feed, watched by visitors at the sanctuary. If you want to be sure to see this daily event, be punctual, as the takahe make short work of the half cup on offer and, having had their fill, wander off.

The kiwi chicks reared within the sanctuary's creche require a very specific diet consisting of a mix made from minced beef, ox-heart, peas, corn, currants, wheatgerm, apples, bananas, pears, vitamins, canola, corn oil and ... cat biscuits.

The chicks eat this until they are heavy and strong enough to be returned to the wild. But only after they have been weaned off it and have learnt to forage for natural food from the forest floor.

A human favourite - peanut butter - is also a favourite with rodents and is used to bait the 1350 or so pest-monitoring devices across the sanctuary.

Add to the shopping list some minced meat (pork seems to be the favourite) used to feed the longfin eel from time to time to encourage her to show herself to visiting parties - for advocacy and educational purposes.

Crickets, mealworms and beetles are grown on site to feed the two tuatara in the viewing enclosure. If you have watched the tuatara, and been mesmerised by their stillness, you would be startled to see how quick they are to pounce on a wriggling mealworm. Gary, a captive Canterbury gecko which lives in the glass enclosure in the visitor centre, also gets the odd mealworm treat.

In any household, dirty dishes accumulate and need to be washed. It's no different at Orokonui, and lots of dishwashing liquid is needed to wash the sugar-water bottles, regularly scrub the kaka hoppers, the takahe hopper, and the water dishes used in the tuatara enclosure. The food containers, mats and covers used by kiwi chicks also need scrupulous attention.

To avoid cross-infection between species, staff and volunteer helpers use disinfectant handwash and hand sanitizer. Disinfectant wet-wipes and SteriGENE are needed to keep the mats and boxes of the kiwi feeding stations clean.

Last, but perhaps not least, on the shopping list are the tea and coffee provided to the many volunteers who carry out a huge variety of daily tasks. Some of these are routine but essential. Convivial tea-breaks provide a chance to share humorous moments, learn about the latest developments from the rangers and form friendships - key ingredients to the recipe for good morale and motivation among the workers, who contribute around 13,000 hours of labour to the sanctuary per year.

- Brenda Ives has been a regular volunteer at Orokonui Ecosanctuary for a number of years

 

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