Trust grant for sanctuary

The jewelled gecko is a featured species at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, living in a new enclosure...
The jewelled gecko is a featured species at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, living in a new enclosure built recently with community support.PHOTO: CAREY KNOX
The future protection of taonga species at Orokonui Ecosanctuary has been given a boost with a substantial grant from the Otago Community Trust.

In its August funding round, announced last week, the trust granted $86,454 to the ecosanctuary, in support of its fence mitigation and protection project.

The grant will assist with the cost of engineering work associated with risk mitigation of the predator-resistant fence and culvert system surrounding Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

The project includes slope reduction earthworks, installation of new drains and culverts, culvert protection works, fence stabilisation works and reinstatement of access roads.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary general manager Amanda Symon said the project would mitigate risk to the fence from slips and flooding.

‘‘[This means] that we can continue to provide safe habitat for the many native species that call Orokonui home,” Ms Symon said.

The fence and culvert system is vital in excluding predators from the ecosanctuary.

Threatened native species protected there include breeding populations of Haast tokoeka kiwi, takahe, South Island kaka, South Island robin, karearea/southern falcon, jewelled gecko, tuatara and Otago skink.

Ms Symon said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected international travellers, who usually made up 20% to 25% of visitors to the ecosanctuary.

‘‘We have been well supported by locals, which has meant we have survived the pandemic really well so far,’’ she said.

The on-site cafe and venue, which had closed for nine months due to the pandemic, had reopened again under new management.

In the past year, a new enclosure for sub-adult jewelled gecko had been built, which would keep the juveniles safe, and also allow visitors to see them.

‘‘We have a wild adult population in the sanctuary, which are very difficult to see,’’ Ms Symon said.

‘‘This enclosure allows us to keep the juvenile jewelled gecko safe while they mature, and the gecko can also breed in there,’’ she said.

Material for building the jewelled gecko enclosure cost $25,352, which received sponsorship from Scenic Hotel Southern Cross ($10,000), ORC EcoFund ($9884), and DCC Biodiversity Fund ($4000).

The building project also involved 659 staff hours and 153 volunteer hours.

‘‘This was a great community project for us, and the enclosure is popular with visitors,’’ she said.

The ecosanctuary had also recently had two rainwater drinking fountains installed, sponsored by Laura Cope of Use Your Own Cup ($2500), Tapwaterwells Ltd ($3250), and Dunedin Rotary ($3066).

Volunteers were particularly important to the operation of the ecosanctuary, collectively contributing 1000 hours per month, which added up to about $250,000 worth of volunteer labour a year, Ms Symon said.


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