This summer, Lucas Larraman and Victor Anton used the Wildlife Watcher cameras to monitor the unique biodiversity of Te Papakura o Taranaki.

This was made possible through Te Rauhī Hiringa – an internship program run by Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa (Lucas’ Iwi) and Taranaki Mounga Project (TMP).

Their initial kaupapa (direction) was to monitor a special taonga found only here – a carnivorous snail that eats worms! They learnt lots throughout the summer! Read below to find out more!

Victor teaching Lucas how to set up a Wildlife Watcher camera!

The primary kaupapa of Te Rauhī Hiringa was whakawhanaungatanga – to connect ngā uri o Taranaki (people with whakapapa to Taranaki) to the Taranaki conservation hapori (community), their Iwi and tūpuna mounga. Lucas was very lucky to be one of the six on this program this summer.

Lucas’ mahi was with Victor Anton at Wildlife.ai, the TMP whānau and Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa.

The Wildlife.ai mahi was focused around Powelliphanta monitoring with three main tasks: mahi ki ngāhere (field work), mahi ki tari (office work) and wānanga / whanaungatanga. Lucas’ time with TMP involved conservation mahi within Te Papakura o Taranaki and Waitaanga. Lucas spent his days stoat-trapping, monitoring toutouwai, and connecting with his tūpuna mounga. Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa provided incredible opportunities to learn from and connect with tāngata and whenua in Taranaki.

Lucas and other Te Rauhī Hiringa interns surveying tūpuna rākau (ancestor trees) along the Waiwhakaiho with Ngāti Tāwhirikura

The Powelliphanta ‘Egmont’ are Indigenous carnivorous snails only found within Te Papakura o Taranaki! They are really rare and special, but there is a lot we don’t know about them. Like, what weather do they like? When do they move around? What kai do they eat?

These pātai (questions) are really important so we can protect these taonga. Powelliphanta are facing big problems from rats, possums and other invasive pests because Powelliphanta get eaten! They problem will get worse with the Climate Crisis because warmer temps will mean more predators and less suitable places for Powelliphanta to live.

People have tried to answer these questions before by doing ‘human-grid-searches’. Basically, people go and count Powelliphanta in a chosen area. This is really good to figure out where Powelliphanta live (Kokowai Junction, Pouākai, Mangorei Track) and how many live there. But it is difficult to find out their behavior patterns because they are not being watched for long periods of time.

This is why the Wildlife Watcher cameras are perfect! Throughout the summer, Lucas and Victor setup Wildlife Watcher cameras in Powelliphanta habitats to try and capture videos of them.

A Wildlife Watcher setup in the ngāhere

Mahi ki Ngāhere

Lucas and Victor went out onto Taranaki mounga a couple of times during December 2023. The main purpose was to set-up five Wildlife Watcher (WW) cameras near Kokowai Junction. Each day was amazing and presented its own challenges.

Lucas, Ethan Mataku and Aisha Campbell went out early January 2024 to collect the five WW cameras and moved one across to Mangorei Track. This was a special day for Te Rauhī Interns to connect with each other and kōrero reo Māori (speak Māori) with each other and their tūpuna mounga. Ethan and Aisha filmed throughout the day to create a ‘day-in-the-life’ vlog.

Lucas and Victor returned late January to set up the remaining WW cameras along Mangorei ridge. They collected them a week later on Waitangi Day.

Locations of the Wildlife Watcher Cameras on Te Papakura o Taranaki

Mahi ki Tari

Once the data was processed, we summarised the number of videos and animals recorded and found the following results.

 

Unfortunately, we did not capture any footage of the Powelliphanta. These are the possible reasons –

  1. The WW camera ran out of battery before the end of the monitoring period. This might have been because it was triggered by moving leaves, rain or underground water flow.
  2. The locations were chosen based on previous Powelliphanta studies. There is a possibility that the populations have gone down since then.
  3. Powelliphanta movement could be low so the possibility of capturing footage would be low. This might be because it is summer and so conditions are dry. Or maybe because the WW camera is unfamiliar and Powelliphanta might avoid it.

These whakaaro (thoughts) are important to take into account for future mahi monitoring Powelliphanta.

These animal observations are publicly available at the Wildlife Watcher – Powelliphanta 2024 GBIF resource.

A Leaf-Veined Slug captured by a Wildlife Watcher camera

Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Indigenous nations generate data from their tūpuna (ancestors), whenua (land), tāngata (people) and whanaungatanga (relationships). Data sovereignty is an Indigenous right and occurs when Indigenous nations have genuine influence on how their data is stored / used / restricted / viewed. This is a means of decolonisation and creates positive outcomes for all involved.

Local Contexts (LC) is a pathway to implement and maintain Indigenous data sovereignty. LC provides a platform and guideline for people and Indigenous nations to form equitable relationships. On LC, Biocultural (BC) Labels and Notices are tools that aim to shift power dynamics and empower Indigenous nations to data sovereignty. BC Labels can be attached to data to indicate its history, where it comes from and the expectations of the local Indigenous nation. BC Notices highlight the intentions for people to genuinely engage with mana whenua and acknowledge their rohe.

The WW cameras near Kokowai Junction and Mangorei Track were situated on the rohe of Te Ātiawa and Taranaki Iwi respectively. The WW camera data has metadata that includes a BC Notice acknowledging the mana of Te Ātiawa and Taranaki Iwi. In future conservation efforts, within Te Papakura o Taranaki, Local Contexts will be a key tool to aid Indigenous data sovereignty for ngā Iwi o Taranaki.

Link to Local Contexts here.

Wānanga / Whanaungatanga

Aisha Campbell and Ethan Mataku, both also part of Te Rauhī Hiringa, created a ‘day in the life’ vlog. This vlog captured some of my Powelliphanta monitoring mahi within Te Papakura o Taranaki. I really enjoyed teaching Aisha, Ethan and people watching the vlog about Powelliphanta and how we can care for this taonga.

My mahi with Wildlife.ai provided me with the opportunity to connect with people within the conservation hapori and beyond. Spending time and connecting with my tupuna mounga, through mahi, has been a huge privilege. These positive relationships with people and places allowed me to grow in ways I could not have imagined. These relationships have created a strong foundation and will support me in future kaupapa ki Taranaki.

I am extremely grateful to Victor Anton, Sean Zieltjes, Ngahina Capper, Ella Lyon, Wildlife.ai, Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa and Taranaki Mounga Project for enabling these life-changing experiences.

A photo in front of native bush of Lucas Larraman and Victor Anton setting up the wildlife Watcher cameras

Lucas and Victor out with Taranaki Mounga