Robert Koller with a fantail checking out one of his walking poles.PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Fantail Trust is continuing to make good progress in eliminating predators in the Rakaia Gorge.

The trust has 212 traps in the bush and on adjoining farmland in the scenic gorge area and to date 529 possums, 199 rats, 88 hedgehogs and 23 mustelids (ferrets, stoats or weasels) have been trapped.

Set up by Rakaia Gorge resident and conservationist Robert Koller in 2020, the trust continues to receive support for its work from the community and from the likes of Selwyn District Council, Environment Canterbury and Trustpower.

“The support we receive enables us to place these traps and make such good progress,” Mr Koller said.

“Progress is being made because now every day when I go checking the traps I hear bellbirds and see fantails, silvereyes and kereru.

“There is more bird life than a year ago and since we started the project.

“It is only our second summer and basically our first full breeding season for the birds.”

The difference is most marked around the middle of the Rakaia Gorge Walkway and near the Snowdon coalmines, he said.

“It is a lovely area with a stream running through it and lots of native bush with kowhai and fuchsia trees, which are very important feeder trees for the native birds.

“But these trees also get devastated by the possums and rats who eat the flowers, foliage and the berries, thus depriving the birds of their food source.”

The area has been heavily trapped and birds are evident most days.

“Some weeks ago I even saw a group of three baby bellbirds in a kowhai tree. It is amazing.”

A lot more needs to be done and trapping has to continue for a long time to come, Mr Koller said.

“To do it properly it needs a lot of time because the traps need to be serviced almost daily.”

The favourite lure for possums is fresh apple.

For the rats peanut butter and eggs are used.

The stoats go for the same thing as rats, but are much harder to catch.

The hardest predator to get is feral cats and unfortunately there are quite a few in the bush, Mr Koller said.

” Luckily I enjoy being in the forest and I love the walking.”

-By Mick Jensen