Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spurred on by several glowing recommendations, we made our way out to Karori Wildlife Sanctuary today.  A long and impressive fence has been built around a large valley on the south side of Karori, a suburban area west of central Wellington.  This fence aims to keep non-native predators from getting over, under, or through in order to provide a protected area for otherwise-threatened native species.  There are many species that were brought here in what seeemed like a good idea at the time, and have flourished here at the expense of native wildlife.  Possums, rabbits, cats, weasels, and rats were all mentioned.

After paying the $10 admission fee, you pass into an 'airlock' area where you're meant to search your bags for pests that shouldn't be brought in.  I suppose this is where you should remove the possum from your backpack and the weasel from your pocket, but we left our pests at home today and passed right through.

The reserve is a rather large area that reaches up as far as the Brooklyn wind turbine, and there are trails throughout, but the main tourist attractions are in the lower third of the park, largely along easy and frequently paved paths.  You first pass the 'lower' reservoir, on the top of which is a shallow wetlands area to appeal to species that like that sort of thing.  Then a bit of a climb up to the dam for the upper reservoir, the intervenening area containing many of the interesting bits.

We mainly saw birds in the park--and there were plenty of those--but we also caught a glimpse of a tuatara, which is a lizard-like creature (though not a lizard) that is endemic to New Zealand, and a number of wetas, which are large insects resembling crickets that are also endemic to New Zealand.

Of the birds the most interesting were the kakas, which are a sort of parrot, again endemic to New Zealand.  They are colored in shades of brown, but are quite recognizable as parrots.  They had just put out food for them (birds are free to come and go as they please, but food is provided so they tend to hang around), so several were hanging around the feeders quite a bit.

The upper reservoir includes a rather tall crescent dam, but the water is some 10 meters below the top of it.  That mystery was solved when Sheila read that the dam was decomissioned, and the remaining reservoir is just trace remains.  I then remembered somebody talking about a dam in Karori that was built atop a fault line, and when that fact was discovered, they decided that, y'know, maybe that's not such a good thing, so they drained the lake.

As with most things in New Zealand, the preserve was quite well-done, and I, too, will now be recommending it.

-Aron
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