Tooth and Claw snags young locals

25 November, 2016

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A website created by Dragonfly to record observations of pest animals on Otago Peninsula was given the thumbs up by local children after a busy spring. The project, Backyard Biodiversity, saw children monitoring pests around their homes and schools and recording it on the Tooth and Claw website.

Sarah Irvine, Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group Project Manager, says her daughter was very enthusiastic about being involved.

“She trialled the Tooth and Claw website before it went live and once she’d entered the test data said, ‘I want to do more!’ The data entry side really appealed to her, and the website was at the right level for the age of the school children.”

Sarah says the children enjoyed finding out what was lurking in their back yards. “They loved putting out the tunnels and checking what was there in the morning. They also loved sharing their finds with their classmates and their family. It was lots of fun.”

Monitoring kits (that included tracking tunnels, chew cards, wax tags and pitfall traps) were issued to schools and families in rotation for a week at a time.

“At one school, the children took on the responsibility of managing the kits – issuing them and making sure they came back – as well as helping each other with identifying the teeth marks and paw prints and with the data entry.”

The Department of Conservation organised tertiary student volunteers to help with pest identification and data entry in the schools.

“We’ve had really good feedback about this aspect – the older students engaged well with the school children and were great volunteers. The teachers also appreciated the support in their classroom.”

Backyard Biodiversity culminated in a display of posters at Otago Museum, which runs until 4 December.

“The posters are an opportunity for the children to share what they did, what they found, and it seems, to invent fun animal jokes,” says Sarah. (What kind of car does a possum drive? A Furrari!)

On a poster, an Anderson’s Bay School student wrote, “After school I went home and put out the traps. I put one beside my trampoline. I put one beside my porch. I put one in a bush and one on a tree. I got a stoat, 3 hedgehogs and 1 rat.”

Read more about the project.

Backyard Biodiversity is an Unlocking Curious Minds project run by Backyard Biodiversity Educator Carol Tippet for the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group.