Project Update V June 2024

Check out our latest project update

Explore Magazine – This town in New Zealand is about to go carbon-zero

Late in 2023, we took Craig Tansley from Explore Travel Australia to show our work at Bob’s Cove and explain the importance of biodiversity protection. 

Craig spent some time in Queenstown exploring the initiatives locally to protect the environment and reduce carbon.

Kia Ora Magazine

Earlier this year we took Ben Fahy from Kia Ora Magazine for a walk at Bob’s Cove, to show him how we are using the self-resetting AT220 traps to protect the native species of the area and remove predators. 

New alpine trapline lies in wait for expected predators – Stuff article

Debbie Jamieson from Stuff wrote an article sharing the installation of our new trapline connecting the Rees Valley with the Matukituki Valley. 

Read the full article below

Mountain Scene article – Michael Hill … conservationist

The generous support of The Hill family has enabled us to install a further 60 AT220 predator control traps. For full details, read the article below.

Stepping up for native species

An Arrowtowner’s so committed to restoring native species she’s planning to walk 5200 kilometres this year — or 100km a week.

Read more below.

Southern Lakes Sanctuary on RNZ

We’re proud to be a part of the team of conservationists and scientists looking out for the mohua at Makarora in conjunction with Forest & Bird Central Otago Lakes Branch, Atarau Sanctuary and Department of Conservation (DOC).

Claire Concannon from RNZ visited to find out more about efforts to trap predators, catch and band birds, and use a new acoustic machine learning tool to identify individual birds by their song 

Our research and protection of the mohua in Makarora is thanks to funding from Science Into Action, Mohua Charitable Trust, The Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation and The Tūpiki Trust.

Conservationist takes on Grebe project

Wānaka conservationist Petrina Duncan recently took on the role of managing the Lake Wānaka Grebes Project through her role at Southern Lakes Sanctuary. 

Read more below.

Amanda from Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust speaking on our partnerships

Amanda Hasselman is a Board Member on the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust, she is also a special advisor to Southern Lakes Sanctuary. 

She has seen the benefits of working with Southern Lakes Sanctuary on protecting the taonga species that live in our region. 

Young Conservationists focus on Shotover wetlands

Our Whakatipu Hub coordinator has spent time working with Shotover Primary School students, alongside Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Otago Regional Council, Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, Southern Lakes Sanctuary, Mana Tahuna and Queenstown Airport to rehabilitate the Shotover Wetlands, simultaneously enabling pupils to take part in a hands-on, meaningful learning programme around conservation and climate change mitigation.

Watch the video and read more below.

1News story on Southern Lakes Sanctuary

1News joined our team in the field to discuss how Jobs for Nature was a springboard for our mahi, and how we plan to continue.

Huge predator-free zone faces extinction as government funding runs out

The Southern Lakes Sanctuary was established with funding from the $1.19 billion Jobs for Nature programme, set up as part of the Covid-19 recovery package. It faces extinction if new funding can not be found.

Read more below.

Preparing for a possible takahē release

We are working with our partners including Rees Valley Station to create an environment suitable for a possible takahē release in the future. 

Working with people who are passionate about the land and conservation – like Kate and Iris – makes for an incredible partnership! 

Watch this space!


Shadow cast over feral cats

A newsroom story has shed light on the problems caused by feral cats to our native and endangered species. 

Read the full story below.

Group receives boost to fund ‘game changer’ trapping tech

A generous $50,000 donation from Xero founder and Queenstown resident Rod Drury has allowed Southern Lakes Sanctuary to further invest in self-resetting predator-trap technology.

Read more below.

Introduction to Southern Lakes Sanctuary video

Recently we worked with Jonny James to produce this video showing the area we work in and some of the work we do. We live and work in an incredibly beautiful region, with over 35 endangered taonga species. Our staff work together with over 80 volunteer conservation groups to save these species for our future generations.

Paddy Gower Has Issues – Why aren’t feral cats included in PredatorFree2050

Recently we were approached by the Newshub show Paddy Gower Has Issues to assist with their story about why feral cats were not included in PredatorFree2050. 

Chrissy our Field Crew member spent a day in the Rees filming with the Newshub crew.  

The Outlet Podcast

Our Project Director Paul Kavanagh recently featured on The Outlet Podcast – discussing our mahi, and how important it is to be doing this work now.

“We are the last generation who can make a difference before its too late; both for climate change and biodiversity loss”.

Make a cuppa and have a listen! Paul’s interview begins at 8:20.

Developing eDNA monitoring

For the last year we have been developing a novel monitoring technique that is designed to monitor the occupancy rate and population health of hard-to-find lizard species using environmental DNA (eDNA) tracking. Our technique involves collecting eDNA from lizards in a non-invasive way. We place pipes containing filter paper in lizard habitat, when the lizards move through these pipes, they leave traces of eDNA that can be analysed. The pipes are placed across a habitat to gain an understanding of general occupancy (see below for detailed information on occupancy). Our method is non-invasive, less labour and expertise intensive and potentially more cost-effective than existing techniques which typically involve physical capture, visual sightings, or electronic devices that are prone to failure.

In autumn 2023, Southern Lakes Sanctuary completed the first trial of this technique at the Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary on endangered Otago skinks (Oligosoma otagense) which are notoriously difficult to monitor. The preliminary results suggest that we have a valid method for detecting cryptic lizards in these environments and an indication on the best timeframe for leaving eDNA pipes in the habitat. Given that many lizards in New Zealand are threatened with extinction, and there is a lack of low-cost, non-invasive monitoring methods, this eDNA-occupancy technique could be ground-breaking both on the national and global scale. To develop the technique further, a small trial is proposed in the Mokomoko Sanctuary to see whether we can enhance detection rates using baited pipes. A full-scale occupancy survey on an endangered cryptic skink species in complex habitat will then be completed to see how the technique performs out of the managed area.

Trap Communications Gateways Installed

After a significant amount of planning, testing and some more waiting, we have installed the first of three Gateways for our new integrated management system on our AT220 traps in Bush Creek. This incredible technology will allow us to check on trap status, operations, bait and battery levels from the office – significantly reducing our field time and increasing our efficiency. This project, in conjunction with FTP Solutions, has seen a leap forward in our ability to maintain our trap network as well as opening the door into being able to use these traps in Kea habitat. Through AI learning, these traps have the ability to not fire on an “unidentified target species” and can be set to only fire on Possums and Rats. We’re very excited to get the Bush Creek network live, before also rolling this out in Wye Creek and Bob’s Cove.

Trap maintenance tips

One thing you can be sure of as a trapper is that your traps WILL need maintenance at some point. Our field crews in Wanaka and the Whakatipu come across all sorts of issues with malfunctioning, rusty or broken traps. Fixing these issues immediately is all part of running a good trap line. If an animal has a bad experience at a trap and then escapes, it is unlikely to ever return.
We highly recommend setting your traps off regularly to test they are actually working as they should. For DOC150’s, 200’s and 250’s, put a tennis ball into a long sock and use that to set off the trap. Or use a short length of garden hose.
Learn how to calibrate DOC traps if you manage a trap line (contact us for help).
Give the trap a decent clean regularly (not sterile but clean) to ensure that fresh bait is the only thing attracting the predators.
And think about how and where your traps are positioned to maximise the three R’s… rivers, rises and roads. Good luck!
(Credit to John Bissell for a few of these trapping tips.)

Revolutionary Trial in Queenstown

Quail Rise joins the fight against pests

Director General Visits LWB article

Pestival 2023

On 12th and 13th May, we hosted two Pestival hui events in Wānaka and Queenstown. The aim was to bring together people from the local community-led conservation groups whom we support, along with relevant organisations such as Department of Conservation, expert guest speakers from around New Zealand and trustees and staff of the Southern Lakes Sanctuary Trust. Turnout was great with over 130 people attending the two events.

John Bissell from Backblocks Environmental in the Wairarapa shared fantastic trapping techniques and tips. Know your target animal, use specific baits/traps, and think like a predator hunter!

Gavin White from the Forest & Bird Tautuku Restoration Project (Catlins) let us in on some of the immense challenges of working towards Predator Free in an isolated location without a big team.

Kim Miller shared some of the successes of the Halo Project – Beyond Orokonui’s work in the wider Dunedin area and Otago Peninsula. Data about the effectiveness of AT220 self-resetting possum traps was very interesting.

Paul Kavanagh gave us a great overview into the work done by the growing team of the Southern Lakes Sanctuary. Many of our guests left knowing a lot more about the overall picture of work that they are contributing to.

Bridget Carter gave us a sneak peak into the planning behind Predator Free Rakiura – likely to be the largest predator eradication project of an inhabited island that the world has ever seen.

And finally we heard from Brett Butland about some of the projects being supported by Predator Free 2050 Limited. New tech and science are at the forefront of these fantastic initiatives.

The positive outcomes of Pestival were too numerous to fit here! Most of all, we all enjoyed face-to-face exchanges of valuable knowledge, connecting with others in the conservation world, and sharing good kai with a motivated group of committed conservationists. We went away feeling like we’re all part of something much larger – the Predator Free 2050 movement in Aotearoa!


A huge THANK YOU! to everyone involved in making these events successful, including our guest speakers, attendees, organisers, food preparers, venue providers and funders.

Director General visits Southern Lakes Sanctuary

Its really important that we can share our mahi and ensure those who fund us and plan Conservation in New Zealand understand the work we are doing. Earlier in May we took the Director General of Department of Conservation – Penny Nelson – to see some of the areas we plan to release takahe in the Dart Valley. We introduced her, the Deputy Director General Mike Tully and the South Island Operations Manager Aaron Fleming to the landowners who are supporting us in our trapping and predator removal efforts – Iris and Kate Scott and Amanda and Mark Hassleman. We showed some of the new technologies we are using in mammalian predator control and introduced some of our partners and partner groups. Whilst the weather wasn’t amazing, the Southern Lakes Sanctuary area never disappoints.

Trapline installation on the Coronet Face

In conjunction with Whakatipu Wildlife Trust and some keen volunteers we set out a new trapline along the Coronet Water Race trail – a trail built and maintained by Queenstown Trails , QEII and our partner group Soho Properties.

The Coronet Face reforestation project is a collaboration between Trees That Count , Te Tapu o Tāne, Department of Conservation , Wakatipu Reforestation Trust, Soho Properties and NZSki. Last year these groups planted over 10, 000 native trees along the front face. We have now added nearly -50 traps, including some AT220 self-resetting possum traps. This area will now act as an important corridor between trapping groups in Arrowtown and Mt Dewer.

As always, collaboration is important in our projects. Innes Hamilton saved our backs by helping out with his buggy – transporting traps along the trail to where they needed to be, and a group of volunteers helped install the traps.

As part of our planning to ensure we will be trapping effectively, we also put out some cameras around part of the Coronet Loop and Coronet Water Race. These cameras are baited with fresh rabbit and ZIP motolures, which automatically dispense mayonnaise daily. The cameras will be left out for 21 nights, and once analysed, will give a good indication of the pests in the area.

Funding received from Otago Science Participatory Fund

We’re very excited to have received funding from the Otago Science Participatory Fund Platform and Curious Minds to expand our mohua monitoring study in Makarora. We will be working with Dr Laura Molles of Verum Group on improving the monitoring of mohua using acoustic recorders. This monitoring and research builds on prior monitoring done with seed funding received from the Otago Science Participatory Fund in the 2022 spring. It also extends research by Dr Molles which proved that mohua song can identify individual birds; identified different song types of mohua in the Makarora region; and developed a detection algorithm for mohua songs. This monitoring and research will allow for the development of non-invasive monitoring techniques.


Wētā monitoring trip

Southern Lakes Sanctuary staff Tom and Sam teamed up with invertebrate specialist Warren Chinn from Department of Conservation for a fascinating trip to help study and protect one of Aotearoa’s most poorly understood insects. Southern Lakes Sanctuary staff Tom and Sam teamed up with invertebrate specialist Warren Chinn from Department of Conservation for a fascinating trip to help study and protect one of Aotearoa’s most poorly understood insects.

The team spent three nights surveying in a remote area of Mt Aspiring National Park for the Nationally Endangered Southern Alps Giant Wētā (Deinacrida Pluvialis).

It was a cold Autumn trip with very little sunlight but the project site is outstandingly beautiful. We now understand more about the species distribution, behaviour and abundance here. The team also installed several “wētā motels”, hopefully when we come back after winter some of these will be occupied.

The Southern Alps giant wētā (Deinacrida pluvialis) is an endangered species of alpine insect that has rapidly vanished from much of its former distribution. These magnificent wētā punga are large, flightless, and will often forage on bitterly cold nights. Consequently, they are extremely vulnerable to introduced mammalian predators and several Southern Alps giant wētā populations appear to have been vanquished by mice, rats, and stoats. Fortunately, there is at least one location within the Southern Lakes Sanctuary project area where these chunky wētā punga are numerous. Southern Alps giant wētā experience almost perpetual darkness here and they live in habitats that are bombarded by rockfalls, avalanches, and giant pieces of glacier. These conditions are not very appealing to most predatory mammals, which may be why our giant insect friends have survived here!

Tūpiki Trust

In March, Dave and Ross from The Tūpiki Trust visited to learn about some of the work the grant from the Trust had facilitated. Phil our technical and field advisor, Bonnie our Whakatipu hub coordinator and Sarah our Makarora hub coordinator took them up Wye Creek to show them one of our trap lines. There they ran into Ben and Will who were cutting a track for a trapline in the Wye Creek catchment. Grants from organisations like the Tūpiki Trust allow us to expand on our trapping efforts to increase biodiversity gains throughout our region and protect our environment.

Another project made possible by funding from the Tūpiki Trust involved a team of four flying into the upper North branch of the Young Valley to conduct a brief ‘biodiversity assessment’ of the area, particularly searching for rock wren, whio and mohua as well as getting a feel for pest numbers and the practicality of doing future work in the area.


Our team found rock wren and whio as well as ideal habitat for many species including mohua and long-tailed bats. There was also sign of predators – so we are now undergoing planning for increased protection of this incredible area.

Reducing our carbon footprint

We’re reducing our carbon footprint while showcasing our native birds!

Check out our brand new leased EV’s featuring fabulous photos of native birds taken by Oscar Thomas Photography. Oscar Thomas is an ecology/zoology student at Otago University and a NZ birding expert, guide and author.

The design is by Daniel Sweeney at Total Brand who is a trustee of our organisation and a graphics / marketing guru, based in Queenstown. We love your work!

You’ll see the mohua/yellowhead car around Wanaka-Makarora and the rock wren (!! bird of the year!!) car around Queenstown-Arrowtown. Come over and say hello if you see them!

Pictured here are Wanaka-based staff Petrina and Tom by the cars after a lesson on how to drive these amazing EV’s. We look forward to using a lot less carbon to get our conservation work done across the region.

Educating our future conservationists

Our  Whakatipu Hub Coordinator – Bonnie, teamed up with Jo from Wakatipu Reforestation Trust to teach a group of Year 7 and 8 Enviro Leaders and some of the younger Enviro Team members from Shotover Primary School about monitoring pest and predator species.


This group are involved in restoring a Wetland near their school. To compliment their planting work, the group made tracking tunnels and chew cards and put these out around the wetland to get a better understanding of what is going on down there, and to help inform which traps are needed in the area. After a month, Bonnie returned to Shotover Primary and with the Enviro Team kids, checked the tracking tunnels and discovered mice and hedgehogs. They also found prints from a skink. The Enviro Team have now deployed ten DOC200 traps which they plan to check weekly with their teacher.

ECO cash splash