A Picton man has been fined $1000 as a result of a weka being captured in a possum trap he set on the ground in breach of trapping permit conditions.
Edward Rani James Sims, 63, pleaded guilty in the Blenheim District Court last week to a charge of hunting absolutely protected wildlife without lawful authority in breach of the Wildlife Act 1953. In addition to the $1000 fine, he was ordered to pay costs totalling $255.
Department of Conservation Sounds Area biodiversity programme manager Mike Aviss said the case was an important reminder of the need for traps to be set so they do not pose a threat to native ground-dwelling birds such as weka.
“The weka was found in the trap by Outward Bound instructors and students in the Iwituaroa Scenic Reserve in the Anakiwa area of the Marlborough Sounds on 13 May last year. The group was disturbed to find the weka caught in the trap.
“Fortunately in this case the weka was able to walk away once freed but there have been too many instances of weka being killed, losing a leg or being otherwise harmed as a result of traps being set on the ground when they mustn’t be.
“Sims had been warned previously about setting traps on the ground. It is a condition of DOC trapping permits, required for trapping on public conservation land, that traps are set at least 700 mm above the ground in areas where there are ground-dwelling birds to avoid their being caught in traps. Devices are available for setting traps off the ground.
“We appreciate the work possum trappers do in reducing possum numbers but it needs to be done in line with permit requirements and by and large it is done correctly.
“Weka have become extinct in many South Island areas but the Marlborough Sounds and also the West Coast are strongholds still for them. It is important we protect those weka that remain. Weka are as uniquely New Zealand as tui and kowhai, and deserve more respect.
“Marlborough residents and visitors have a key role to play in protecting these cheeky, bold and curious birds by setting traps off the ground to avoid accidentally capturing weka and also by ensuring their dogs do not attack them.”
In 2004, a Nelson man was fined $1000 and had 74 traps forfeited also in relation to capturing weka in traps in the Marlborough Sounds, having pleaded guilty and being convicted on the same charge of hunting absolutely protected wildlife without lawful authority.