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Wildlife Trip to Somes Island

The Massey University Wildlife and Conservation Club recently embarked on their annual field trip to Somes Island (also known as Matiu Island). The students had the option of staying overnight on the island or visiting just for the day.

Somes Island is a small island located in the centre of the Wellington harbour. The island is currently a department of conservation scientific and historic reserve but, has served many purposes in its past including an animal quarantine station, an internment camp and a military defense position. These days the island is home to some of our country’s rarest species including; Tuatara, Kakariki, Little Blue Penguins, Cook Strait Giant Weta and 4 species of skinks and 3 species of geckos.

The overnighters left on Friday and arrived on the island mid afternoon. They were given a guided tour of the island followed later by night walk to try and spot some of the Island’s nocturnal species.

I went with the day trippers. Our day began at the painfully early time of 7.15am, At Massey we loaded into cars, ready for the 2 hour drive to Wellington. We caught the ferry from Queens Wharf in Wellington and, after a short 20 minute trip, arrived on Somes Island. We went through a short safety briefing and a few biosecurity checks before joining the over nighters and embarking on a 2 hour guided tour of the island with one of the resident DOC rangers. The tour included sightings of the native wildlife on the island, a brief history of the island and tours of historical sights including; the old quarantine building, a memorial to people that died on the island and gun emplacements. The tour also had a focus on sustainability. The rangers on Somes are passionate about sustainability and go the extra mile to ensure New Zealand’s flora and fauna can be enjoyed by future generations. They are doing their bit by generating their own electricity by way of wind and solar power and producing composts from their own worm farms. Somes Island also has an extensive habitat restoration programme in place, involving hundreds of volunteers over three decades. The tour provided a few special sightings of rare wildlife. We saw 3 tuataras, thanks to the DOC ranger, who knew exactly where to look. Without her we never would have seen the statue like dinosaurs, skillfully camouflaged in the bush. We also got up close and personal with some giant Weta, skinks and a gecko.

After the tour, the students were free to explore the Island before ferrying back to Wellington and returning to Palmerston North.

Written by Kyle Jones



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