Predator Free 2050 was always an ambitious goal, but bit by bit we are hearing regional success stories that make it seem increasingly possible. 2050 is still 30 years away, and when you think about it like that, you begin to realise that it is the younger generation that will be completing the task that we have begun.
We became aware of the youngest registered member of our trapping community via radio presenter Jesse Mulligan. Hugo McPhail, 12 years old, was directed our way to begin logging his catches on trap.nz. A school research project highlighted for Hugo the impact of pests on native bird populations, and he decided to dive in and make a difference. When asked why he keeps trapping, his reply was ‘I enjoyed it and I was catching heaps’.
‘Since starting my trapping I’ve learnt so much more about how the rats impact our environment and I’m so glad I’m getting so many… I took mum to check the traps the other day and two rats ran across her feet so there’s plenty more to get. We still haven’t caught the biggest rat ‘Lanky Phil’. We think we have caught him twice but he keeps getting out… the hunt continues. He’ll trip up one day!’
Since July 2019, Hugo has trapped 80 rats and 12 possums. He has been granted permission by the principal of Clevedon School to trap on the grounds after a series of meetings detailing how he was planning to trap and what practices he would use to keep other children safe. Hugo also traps on his own 12 acre property in Ness Valley, and another property in the Clevedon area.
Hugo’s efforts must be making a difference, as he reports less rats being trapped at Clevedon School and lower possum numbers at his home property. ‘Our property is on the edge of the Mataitai Forrest and we have a lot of bird life including lots of Kereru, Kingfisher and a family of noisy Kaka.’
Hugo and his father are in the process of setting up a bait line around the edge of the native bush, as Hugo’s enthusiasm refuses to diminish. Following a delivery of traps and bait stations from Friends of Te Wairoa, Hugo had his boots on and was ready to head out and set his new traps right away.
You can’t help but smile and admire Hugo’s endless enthusiasm for pest control and our native biodiversity. We can all use some motivation sometimes, as it seems such an overwhelming, never-ending task. As Edmund Burke once said: Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.